Did Dolphins Coaches Order Richie Incognito to Bully Jonathan Martin?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 6 2013 10:28 AM

Did Dolphins Coaches Tell Richie Incognito to Bully Jonathan Martin?

158704686
Richie Incognito #68 of the Miami Dolphins is introduced with the starting players prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills on December 23, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Here's the latest twist in the current mess that is the Miami Dolphins bullying case, via the the Sun Sentinel:

Miami Dolphins coaches asked player Richie Incognito, who was the offensive line's undisputed leader, to toughen up teammate Jonathan Martin after he missed a voluntary workout last spring, multiple sources told the Sun Sentinel. The sources told the paper they believe that Incognito, who is accused of using racially incendiary language and bullying tactics against Martin, may have taken those orders too far. ...
Advertisement
Sources say that communication took place when Martin skipped two days of the team's OTA program, and Incognito was encouraged by his coaches to make a call that would "get him into the fold," one source said. Even though OTA workouts are voluntary, the NFL culture forces coaches to strong arm the team's leaders to make sure everyone attends. Sources say Incognito was doing his job, but they admit he crossed the line.

For those who need a refresher: Martin, a second-year player out of Stanford, went AWOL from the team last week after he was the target of what at the time was described as a "prank" in the team's cafeteria. Since then a series of increasingly serious allegations have emerged suggesting that what happened in the lunchroom was simply the last straw for Martin, who appears to have been the target of prolonged bullying at the hands of Incognito, a nine-year veteran. After briefly dismissing the allegations as "speculation," the team temporarily suspended Incognito earlier this week roughly around the time that it was revealed publicly that he had left a racial slur-filled voice mail for Martin calling him a "half-n-----," one in reported string of such messages.

The latest report will bring even more attention to one of the biggest questions about the case—namely, exactly how much did the organization know about what was happening between Incognito and Martin. If the coaches were largely out of the loop as the team contends, then the report suggests that perhaps they intentionally kept themselves that way by handing out somewhat vague marching orders to Incognito and then not following up on exactly how he carried out his task. A less-kind reading of the "toughen up" instructions, meanwhile, raises the possibility that Incognito was embracing his role as bully at the request of his coaches.

For his part, Incognito has gone mostly quiet after originally denying the initial accusations when they first popped up last week, although he did tell a local TV station that caught up with him yesterday that he is "just trying to weather the storm right now," adding: "This will pass."

Elsewhere in Slate: Josh Levin and Emily Bazelon take a look at how the NFL abets bullies like Richie Incognito.

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

This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.