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5 posts from November 6, 2013

November 06, 2013

About that voice mail again ... new information

On its face it is horrible. It is offensive. It sounds racist.

The voice mail Richie Incognito left Jonathan Martin in April is at the center of the public distaste for the Dolphins guard. The transcript indeed paints a picture of a bullying veteran using racial epithets against a younger player and threatening that youngster's life:

"Hey, wassup, you half-n----r piece of (expletive). I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. I'll (expletive) in your (expletive) mouth. I'm gonna slap your (expletive) mouth, I'm gonna slap your real mother across the face. (laughter). (Expletive) you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."


Except ...

The voice mail which Martin kept was later played in the Dolphins locker room around a group of players ... And Martin was the one who played it, according to two players. And he joked about it.

"This is the same guy that was laughing about this voice mail at one point in time, first of all," receiver Brian Hartline said of Martin. "Second of all, I believe that if you look through the whole voice mail, there's some things said that you probably shouldn't say in general, friends or not friends. But I know for a fact, that I've said things to my friends that I kind of wish I've never said, either."

There's another thing. According to a source close to Incognito, the transcript of the voice mail is not complete. It omits the last line.

After Incognito went on this apparent diatribe, his voice softens, and matter-of-factly he says, "Ok, call me back."

And ... Martin called him back, the source said.

Does this release Incognito from the racially charged words? No.

Do this add context? Yes.

Daily reminder: We don't know the entire story. Please withhold judgment condemning or condoning either side until we know everything.


Martin-Jordan got into scuffle, Incognito intervened

Last week before he left the team under apparent emotional duress of some sort and well before his camp claimed workplace harassment at the hands of teammate Richie Incognito, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin got into a practice scuffle with rookie Dion Jordan.

Such exchanges, by the way, are not uncommon. They happen plenty.

And, as receiver Brian Hartline related to me in the locker room today, the first person who went to Martin's defense in the fight was, you guessed it, Richie Incognito. And soon center Mike Pouncey was in on it as well on Martin's behalf.

Randy Starks confirmed the little battle as well and said defensive linemen then joined in on behalf of Jordan.

It went as one would expect it to go except ...

The narrative out there is that Incognito was a Martin tormentor who wanted to toughen him up. Well, if Incognito wants Martin toughened up, why would help him in a fight?

The narrative out there is that Martin is physically soft. Well, actually, I've seen Martin in more than a couple of practice tussles and I've seen him take shots at opponents during games. During his rookie year he got into a fight on the field with Starks, who is one tough man, the first week of training camp.

Afterward, Hartline told me, both Incognito and Pouncey were upset with him because in some form or fashion Hartline seemed to agree with Jordan about the exchange.

So even on a non-physical level, Incognito and Pouncey had Martin's back after the fact.



NFL pledges transparency with investigation findings

Ted Wells, a senior partner in the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and one of the nation’s most prominent attorneys, has been appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell to direct an independent investigation into issues of workplace conduct at the Miami Dolphins and prepare a report for the commissioner.

The report will be made public, according to the NFL.

 “Ted Wells will independently direct the investigation and submit a report to me,” commissioner Goodell said. “Mr. Wells will conduct a thorough and objective investigation. He will ensure that we have all the facts so that we can address this matter constructively. We have worked previously with Paul Weiss and have great respect for the firm.

"Ted Wells will have full authority to investigate as he deems appropriate. He is on the job as of today and will undertake to complete his work as promptly as possible. Consistent with doing a thorough investigation, we have not imposed a specific timetable on him."

The National Law Journal named Ted Wells one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” in 2010. His recent experience in conducting special investigations includes both the Syracuse University basketball team sexual harassment case and the NBA players union leadership dispute. In the latter, he was hired by the NBA players union and generated the report that led to a change in the head of the union.

"I am pleased to accept this appointment by Commissioner Goodell,” Wells said. “My task is to assemble the facts and present my findings to the commissioner. I will do so fairly and comprehensively so that Commissioner Goodell can address this matter properly. I will begin my work immediately and report my findings to the commissioner as soon as practical.”

The Dolphins have pledged the club’s full support for the investigation.

“Under league policy, all employees have the right to a workplace free of any form of harassment,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We are fully committed to an appropriate working environment for all NFL personnel."

Wells received his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a degree from Harvard Law School. He is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Incognito considered black in Dolphins locker room

One of the most curious aspects of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin story is how race has become very much a part of it outside the Dolphins locker room -- in the media and among fans and observers -- but not at all so far within the Dolphins locker room.

Think of this:

Richie Incognito left Jonathan Martin a voice mail that, among other things, called Martin a "half-n----r." And Dolphins players of color, knowing of the voicemail, have expressed no problems with Incognito.

"I don't have a problem with Richie," Mike Wallace said. "I love Richie."

"I don't think Richie is a racist," cornerback Brent Grimes said.

"Richie Incognito isn't a racist," tight end Michael Egnew said.

ESPN analyst and former Dolphins wide receiver Cris Carter has know Mike Pouncey since the player's childhood. Today Carter said on air he recently spoke to Mike Pouncey and the center, who is Incognito's friend, addressed race.

"They don't feel as if he's a racist, they don't feel as if he picked on Jonathan repeatedly and bullied him, but if they could do it all over again there would be situations that they might change but they’re very, very comfortable with Richie,” Carter said.

 “They think it’s sad, not only that Jonathan’s not on the football team, but also that Richie is being depicted as a bigot and as a racist.”

How is this possible?

Well, I've spoken to multiple people today about this and the explanation from all of them is that in the Dolphins locker room, Richie Incognito was considered a black guy. He was accepted by the black players. He was an honorary black man.

And Jonathan Martin, who is bi-racial, was not. Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito.

"Richie is honarary," one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. "I don't expect you to understand because you're not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It's about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you've experienced. A lot of things."

Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered "soft" by his teammates and that's a reason he's not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players. His background -- Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people -- was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself.

And so -- agree with it or not, comprehend it or not -- this is a reason the Dolphins haven't turned on Incognito as a racist.

Dolphins leadership? What Dolphins leadership?

The Dolphins are failing on so many levels these days I am having a hard time keeping up.

One issue that seems apparent to current and former players is the Dolphins' obvious lack of leadership.

You remember the leadership issue? It was one of the fundamental questions the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin relationship brought to light. I told you we'd discuss the questions one at a time in this space.

My column in today's Miami Herald shows why the Dolphins simply don't have a clue about leadership and that's not me talking. That's players from the past saying it, echoing it from mountain tops.


“I understand when it comes to the natural football things that take place in a locker room that happens with younger guys or older guys, veterans versus rookies – all of those things, they happen," former defensive lineman Willie McGinist said on NFL Network Tuesday. "But there is a certain point when you cross the line and there was a failure of leadership in that locker room that let this situation get out of hand."


The leadership void is deeper than that. It extends to the coaching ranks, particularly if a Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel report that coaches ordered Incognito to "toughen up" Martin is true. Are you kidding me?

If this report is true, not only is the coaching staff that is supposed to provide direction for the players utterly misguided in the definition of giving good direction, but it has other more potentially significant meanings.

If true -- and the Dolphins refuse to confirm or deny the report as they hide behind an NFL mandated gag order -- the fact a coaching staff would order what is basically a Code Red on a player and use a player who was admittedly mentally unstable in the past to do it shows that staff is not just an accessory to this wrong but is actually complicit in the sin.

And as the offender has been suspended and will be fired by not playing for the Dolphins again, so too the accomplice should be fired and not represent the Dolphins again.

If Incognito has evidence this order was given or if multiple Dolphins player tell the NFL this order was given, Incognito may still not play in Miami but at least he will have a plausible explanation for taking the action he did. He was simply following orders. Obviously, going off on a racially tinged attack is an offensive and ridiculous escalation of the orders, but it did comply with the orders. And so Incognito will live to play another day somewhere in the NFL. 

With respect to the Sun-Sentinel's reporting, I hope the information is not true.

If it is ... The nuclear winter is coming.