You, person deeply uninterested this whole "sports" thing, have probably heard at least something about the growing racist bullying scandal involving two professional football players, one of whom has the unbelievable and yet real name of "Richie Incognito." But you'd like to know more, and you're much too embarrassed to ask your sports-loving co-workers and friends what's going on. Worry not! Here's a non sports fan's guide to the strange and sad tale of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.
So. This is... football, right?
Yes. The brain damage-causing sport played with the sort of oblong pigskin ball.
Oh, the one with Tim Tebow. What's going on?
On October 30, Jonathan Martin, a second-year offensive lineman (the big guys in front of the quarterback) for the Miami Dolphins, suffered an "emotional breakdown," reportedly triggered by a harmless-seeming lunchtime prank by his teammates.
What was the prank?
Martin was sick with some kind of minor illness, and his teammates all left the table when he sat down, pretending they were afraid of catching it.
That doesn't sound so bad. Maybe he was overreacting?
On the surface, no, that particular prank doesn't sound terrible. But as it turns out, Martin was allegedly being tormented, on and off the field, since his rookie (first) season, mainly by one teammate, an offensive lineman named Richie Incognito.
Richie, uh... Incognito?
I know. I know! It's his real name. It is!
I thought you said this scandal was about racism, though.
Well, yes. Let's go back a step. The morning after reports surfaced that Incognito was involved in Martin's breakdown, and had been suspended indefinitely by his team, Incognito's father reportedly took to online message boards to defend his son, writing things like "black brothers that do drugs on a regular basis," and asking readers to "pray [GM Jeff] Ireland and [coach Joe] Philbin die of AIDS."
Oof. Cool family. But that's just Incognito's dad?
Well, we're not done here quite yet. In addition to his father's alleged online racism, Richie apparently said some pretty vile things to Martin.
Via text message and voice mail, Incognito called Martin a "half-nigger." He also threatened to kill Martin and to shit in his mouth.
I mean, that's terrible, but maybe it was a one-time outburst?
Nope. Incognito has called at least one other well-known football player a "nigger" during a game. And there's this insane video of Incognito shouting "nigger" and raving about...well, raving about something like a terrifying and drunken psychopath.
Not to mention the time Incognito was accused of rubbing his dick on a woman at a celebrity golf tournament.
So why don't the Dolphins just drop their crazy racist player and wash their hands of the situation?
They did. But it's not that easy. The Dolphins organization may have tacitly allowed, if not actively encouraged, Incognito's behavior. There were reports that coaches from the Dolpins asked Incognito to "toughen up" Martin. (Perhaps for good reason, reports have surfaced that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland might lose their jobs because of the controversy.)
So what does Incognito have to say for himself? He probably defended himself in a conflict-of-interest filled "interview," right?
How'd you guess? Incognito gave an exclusive "interview" to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, who not only trains with Incognito for MMA but also has business dealings with him. Of course, Incognito told Glazer he was not a bully:
"This isn't an issue about bullying. This is an issue about my and Jon's relationship where I've taken stuff too far... I can be accountable for my actions, and my actions were coming from a place of love."
As for the racism? Guess what—it wasn't racism, after all! "I'm not a racist." Incognito told Glazer. "And to judge me by that one word is wrong." Uh-huh.
But wait. My Dolphin-fan Facebook friend posted something about Martin texting Incognito a death threat.
Yes, that is technically true, if misleading: The text was actually a reference to a popular internet meme involving a cute dog, not a... racist death threat, like Incognito's.
How have other players responded?
The Dolphins, unsurprisingly, have circled around Incognito. Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins player in charge of throwing the ball to other Dolphins players, called Incognito the "best teammate I could have asked for" and said Incognito and Martin were actually "best friends."
Other Dolphins, like Mike Wallace and Brent Grimes, have also expressed their support for Incognito, as has former Dolphin Ricky Williams. And one former Dolphin went so far as to say Incognito was an "honorary" black person.
Non-Dolphins have been more critical of the situation and of the NFL's macho culture in general. Brandon Marshall, a player for the Chicago Bears, said this:
"You can't show that you're hurt, you can't show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that's a problem. That's what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that's what we have to change."
The Miami Dolphins locker room probably consists of 75, 80 percent blacks. If you allow Richie Incognito to walk around in an open locker room and to use a racial epithet that most black Americans—all black Americans know the stigma and the hate and the vitriol that comes with that word—if you allow him to do that, you are encouraging him to do that.
Incognito's season—and possibly his career—is over, though he'll still likely receive his $4 million salary for 2013. As for Martin, he's expressed a desire to play in the NFL again. The league is still investigating the incident, and it seems likely at least one Dolphins coach or executive will lose their job over the scandal. And then there's this:
Who knows what that means, but it seems likely this whole thing will just get weirder in the next few days.
In the meantime, please continue to tweet your support or hate to Jonathan Martin. Just make sure it's the right one.
[Image via Getty]