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Incognito violated NFL policy before but was he sanctioned?

In my column in today's Miami Herald I reference that golf outing incident during Fins Weekend in May of 2012 when Richie Incognito apparently sexually harassed and otherwise commited simple battery on an unemployed black woman who was volunteering as a hole monitor at the tournament.

The police report right here suggests Incognito acted like something of an oaf and bully.

According to the victim, Incognito used his golf club to touch her by rubbing it up against her vagina, then up her stomach then to her chest. He then used the club to knock sunglasses off the top of her head. After that, he proceeded to lean up against her buttocks with his private parts as if dancing, saying "Let it rain. Let it rain." He finally finished by emptying a bottled water on her face.

This is not in dispute. This happened. I have spoken to people who attended and the incident was the talk of the day. 

So why did we not hear anything about it until now? Well, Incognito and the Dolphins did a bang-up job of making the issue go away. The victim was paid off. And the team swept the issue under the proverbial rug.

Coach Joe Philbin, who was in his third month as Dolphins coach at the time, didn't cut Incognito. Oh, the coach was seen that season as standing up for the right kind of players, as Miami cut Chad Johnson after his domestic violence issue and traded Vontae Davis because, in part, he went to the bathroom too much during practice.

But Incognito, who did this misdeed, remained part of the team and locker room. He was one of the men Philbin talked about when he often said the Dolphins have the right kind of character in the locker room.

And still that is not the most worrisome thing here.

You see, this incident was a clear violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.

The policy reads, in part:

"While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

Furthermore, NFL policy demands that clubs report any incident that possibly violates the conduct policy to the NFL. There are no exceptions. The fact no arrest was made or no conviction reached does not relieve the club from the burden of alerting the NFL.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, the ball is in the NFL's court.

So did the Dolphins call the NFL or blow off the policy?

Did the NFL investigate or not?

Was there punishment on Incognito or not for this obvious violation of the NFL Conduct Policy?

I contacted the NFL on Friday and was told by a spokesman the league would not comment, citing the fact the league is not commenting on Incognito during its current investigation relative to the Jonathan Martin issue.

The Dolphins similarly are not commenting.

Here's the thing: Incognito missed no games, thus he was not suspended either by the league or the Dolphins. He was not cut from the team nor banished by the league. The strongest punishment he could have received, if any, was a fine that was not announced by the NFL.

(By the way, persons violating the policy are generally required to undergo a clinical evaluation and based on the results, may have to get counseling or treatment of some type. But regardless of whether the person gets counseling or treatment, those are not considered punishment).

The point is if the Dolphins and the NFL did their jobs in the 2012 incident, Incognito now faces sanctions as a repeat offender of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. That would be bad for Incognito.

According to the policy:

"With respect to repeat offenders, the Commissioner may impose discipline on an enhanced and/or expedited basis. In such cases, the timing and nature of the discipline will be determined by the Commissioner based on several factors including but not limited to: the severity of the initial charge and later charge; the facts underlying the later charge; the length of time between the initial offense and later charge; and the player or employee’s compliance with counseling and other programs. Following a full investigation and/or resolution of the proceedings, the Commissioner will review the matter and make any appropriate adjustments."

That assumes action the first time a year ago. 

But if the club or the league looked the other way last year, then Incognito's alleged harassing of a 6-5 teammate got the Dolphins' and NFL's attention like the harassing of a 5-5 "civilian" woman could not. And that would look bad for the institutions.