How Does an NFL Lineman Bully His 300-Pound Teammate? Allegedly With Racist Texts and Voice Mails.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 4 2013 2:13 PM

How Does an NFL Lineman Bully His 300-Pound Teammate? Allegedly With Racist Texts and Voice Mails.

Richie Incognito #68 of the Miami Dolphins blocks against the Buffalo Bills on December 23, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The past week has been an unusual one for the NFL's Miami Dolphins to say the least. Last Monday, starting offensive tackle Jonathan Martin went AWOL from the team after he was the target of what at the time was described as a "prank" in the team's cafeteria. One week later and we still don't know exactly what prompted him to storm out of the lunchroom, but a series of increasingly serious allegations that have emerged since suggest that whatever happened was simply the last straw for Martin, who appears to have been the target of prolonged bullying at the hands of one of his fellow starting lineman, Richie Incognito, a nine-year veteran and a member of the team's six-member leadership council.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

On Sunday night, only hours after dismissing the initial bullying allegations as "speculation," the Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely for what they described as conduct detrimental to the team. Dolphins management says they will continue to investigate the allegations with the help of the NFL, although the fact that they were willing to lose their second starter in less than a week suggests they are far enough along in their investigation to have an idea of its conclusions. So how does a 6'3", 319-pound lineman bully his 6'5", 312-pound teammate? Apparently with voice mails that sound like this [via ESPN, which did the censoring]:

Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN that the following is a transcript of a voice message Incognito left for Martin in April 2013, a year after Martin was drafted:
"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." ...
Sources familiar with the tapes say these are terms Incognito used over time and were not isolated incidents, including the use of the racial epithet multiple times. Sources also say Martin received a series of texts that include derogatory terms referring to the female anatomy and sexual orientation.

Allegations of hazing in the NFL are, of course, nothing new, but the addition of the apparent racial component in this case obviously raises the stakes for the image-conscious league. Complicating matters further for the NFL and the Dolphins is a related report this morning in the Miami Herald that suggests that Dolphin veterans basically use their younger teammates as ATMs to pay for their lavish lifestyles in Miami. According to the report, younger players were recently forced to pick up the tab for a $30,000 team dinner, among other unofficial team outings. For those rookies making the $400,000 league minimum, according to the report, that means some are living paycheck to paycheck. That report came on the heels of an earlier ESPN story that suggested that Incognito pressured Martin into ponying up $15,000 for an unofficial team trip to Las Vegas that he didn't even attend.

Incognito denied the initial allegations of bullying over the weekend. "Stop slandering my name," he told Adam Schefter, an ESPN reporter who's covering the story, via Twitter. "You hide behind 'sources' who are not man enough to put their name behind the BS you report." Despite his role as one of the team's leaders, however, Incognito has a reputation as one of the NFL's dirtiest players and something of a history of clashes with his own teammates on the practice field and in the locker room. He'll be a free agent at the end of this season.

Look for Slate's Josh Levin and Emily Bazelon to have more on the story later today. [Update, their take is live now; go check it out.]

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.