If you’ve missed this mini saga of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the former left the following voicemail for the latter in the spring, and subsequent texts/incidents caused Martin to leave the team last week.
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
The summation of my conflict on Twitter was people casting Incognito as a victim in this.
Below is just one small exchange that was part of a series of justifications for why what Incognito did might not be so bad, or how this is simply “common” to NFL locker rooms, or how Martin is just a wuss, or that he has some kind of mysterious agenda for waiting this long to do something.
— Brian Spaeth (@brianspaeth) November 6, 2013
(In fairness to @Nominataur, that was only one Tweet in a long exchange that other people were also involved in.
The below is instigated by ideas put forth in that discussion, plus elsewhere on the net, radio, etc. Basically, it’s not a “pile on @Nominataur party), nor do I claim he said or thinks all of the below.)
You can go scroll my Twitter to see the rest, but I’d rather you go read the transcript of that voicemail again, so that I can reiterate that there is no context and no situation wherein what he said is in any way okay, and that there’s nothing about that one should consider “common” or “joking”.
Let’s tear apart the arguments and defenses I heard last night, in no particular order.
“Martin has a history of ‘mental health issues’”.
I don’t even know where to start on this.
If he does have issues, then that makes all of this WORSE. Pouncing on the guy you know can’t handle it?
Of course, the natural implication from this line of thinking is that if Martin didn’t have issues, he simply could’ve “manned up”. Right?
Anyone bringing up mental health issues becomes an advocate of this type of behavior, since they’re essentially saying that the only reason things went awry and didn’t sort itself out in the locker room is because of some kind of deficiency in Martin’s ability to “deal”.
It’s all Martin’s fault for being too weak.
Martin went to Stanford. I suspect his only “issue” is that he’s too smart to comprehend or process how to spend any significant time around people like Incognito.
Look at the person you’re defending:
“I’ll wait for the investigation to be completed.”
The only “investigating” going on is who knew what and when, not whether Incognito was justified or whether this is somehow okay.
And please understand that my once and future podcast partner Adam Jacobi’s quite brilliant takedown of the situation is not supposed to be read as in support of such things, which sadly, I can see some people doing.
(It reminds me of Danny McBride being amazed at learning that people hold Kenny Powers up as a role model, when the entire point was to create a completely horrible person of a character.)
— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) November 6, 2013
“Why didn’t Martin say anything earlier?”
Ummm…because that’s what happens in these situations?
Whether it’s a kid being bullied at school, a wife being abused by her husband, a worker being sexually harassed by their boss, a woman who’s been raped, or a football player being hazed by teammates, in the vast majority of cases, the victim hides it.
The whole intent of the aggressor is to make the victim feel small, embarrassed, scared, and ashamed.
They become afraid that speaking out will make it worse, or that nobody will believe them, or that they’ll lose their job/status/reputation/friends/whatever by making waves. They’re made to believe there will be consequences and further horribleness if they say or do anything to stop it.
It’s why it feels like some kind of impossible event when a victim actually stands up and says, “hey, this happened to me, and I’m going to talk about it.”
The type of ostracizing described above is actually what’s “common”, and it’s exactly what’s happening with Martin right now, by the way. He’s being cast as a loser and wimp and (insert worse words here), often even by those who don’t allegedly condone what Incognito said!
I say allegedly, because by simply shrugging it off as “part of the game”, you’re condoning it.
Which is really what this comes down to, right?
Football player as demigod. From the NFL down to Steubenville.
“It’s part of the game. It happens in all locker rooms.”
If you think Martin should’ve “kicked his ass” or “stood up and been a man”, I’d honestly recommend you stop watching football for awhile, because it’s chipping away at your humanity.
Maybe I listen and watch for it now, but it feels like it permeates everything related to football.
During a concussion discussion on sports radio a few weeks ago, someone was arguing that “you can get hurt playing any sport”, apparently unable to distinguish between the lifetime repercussions of a torn ACL and the lifetime repercussions of multiple concussions. (To be clear, one is an occasionally sore knee, and the other is dementia.)
That’s a diversion from this topic, but it speaks right to the hardcore football fan’s complete loss of perspective.
If that’s you, you might need to remove yourself from this “warriors of the gridiron”, NFL Films, Terry Bradshaw-infused hyperbolic world you’re entrenched in and empathize with the human beings involved.
Maybe think of Jonathan Martin as your friend or your brother, instead of a key gladiatorial cog in your fantasy team’s offensive line.
This isn’t professional wrestling – these are real people, living their real lives, and real people, living their real lives should never be subjected to the type of hate speech and the types of threats emitted by Incognito.
If you truly think that that’s just “part of the game”, then I question why you like that game at all, and I might question your entire character.
If you think those elements of football and culture are okay, and even more, if you like it that way, then we really have some problems. Or you do, rather.