If you’re looking for somebody to blame in the bullying-harassment-extortion scandal that has rocked the Miami Dolphins locker room, there are plenty of viable suspects.
You can blame General Manager Jeff Ireland for signing a well-known knucklehead like Richie Incognito.
You can blame coach Joe Philbin for making Incognito a member of the team’s leadership council.
You might even choose to blame the victim, Jonathan Martin — a 6-foot-5, 312-pound offensive tackle — because he didn’t ‘man-up’ and stand up to a hateful bully like Incognito.
I choose none of the above.
I blame the other players on the team.
I blame the other offensive linemen. I blame the quarterback. I blame the teammates who followed and respected Incognito and still do. Even now they don’t seem to think there was anything wrong with Incognito allegedly extorting $15,000 from Martin so Incognito and teammates could take a trip to Vegas; or Incognito leaving Martin a hateful, racially charged voice mail in which Incognito referred to Martin as the N-word, threatened to defecate in Martin’s mouth, beat up Martin’s mother and kill Martin.
“I don’t feel like he was out of hand,” Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace said of Incognito. “I wish he was here right now. ... I don’t feel like anybody was being bullied or hazed. It’s normal in
football. It’s what football teams do, like playing with your brothers. It’s just part of the game of football.”
Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake tried to explain away Incognito’s demeaning mistreatment of rookies as just a necessary part of the locker-room culture.
“It’s a rite of passage in this league,” Wake said. “It’s a group of elite men. It’s a fraternity, it’s a brotherhood, it’s a lot of things. And there’s a membership. You have to pay your dues to get certain privileges.”
Brotherhood? Elite men? Rite of passage?
Is this a football team or a satanic cult?
Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wonders if this sort of behavior would have happened had there been some real leadership in the Dolphins locker room — with guys like Magic captain Jameer Nelson.
“If one of the other team leaders had been able to see the effect it was having then maybe it would have been stopped,” Van Gundy said. “The best I’ve been around in terms of being able to read his teammates is Jameer. He cared a great deal about what was going on with his teammates and was constantly on the lookout to make sure they were doing OK. I wonder if a guy like Jameer wouldn’t have noticed what was going on (with Martin in the Dolphins locker room) and said, ‘Fellas, this is really bothering this guy, we need to cut it out.’“
Nelson is of the opinion that what happened in the Dolphins’ locker room could never happen with the Magic — at least not while he’s on the team. Even though the Magic, like most teams, make the rookies perform menial tasks like bringing in breakfast, Nelson doesn’t allow any mean-spirited hazing.
“When you’re on a team you have to work together,” Nelson says. “There’s a difference between guys getting doughnuts and orange juice in the morning and guys being harassed and taken advantage of. When guys on your team are down, you try to pick them up; you don’t put your foot on their throat and hold them down.”
If anybody knows about bullying, it’s Magic power forward Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis, who got his nickname as a sensitive 9-year-old when he was the youngest player on his pee-wee football team. “Those are unpleasant memories,” he says of the times he’d start bawling when the older kids picked on him then chided him with yells of, “Stop crying, you BIG BABY!”
Sadly and shockingly, here we are two decades later, and the Miami Dolphins — their players, coaches and management — seemingly had the same attitude toward Jonathan Martin.
As conservative author and commentator Michelle Malkin so aptly put it: “Birds of a lawless, bigoted feather bully together.”