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Quarterback Ryan Tennehill, #17 of the Miami Dolphins, looks on between left guard Richie Incognito, #68 and left tackle Jake Long, #77, before the start of a play against the Cincinnati Bengals. Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins for conduct detrimental to the team.
When you think of someone who’s being bullied, the stereotypical image that comes to mind is that of a young, defenseless, and perhaps nerdy kid. Even with a broader understanding, few would imagine a 300-pound NFL football player, which is part of what makes the story of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito so surprising.
Both are offensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins, the kind of guys you imagine can take care of business – on and off the field. In this case, Jonathan Martin chose to leave the team, after accusing Richie Incognito of bullying him.
Incognito, the alleged offender, seems to have a long history of questionable conduct. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that “Incognito has had to be reprimanded in the past for his actions toward team employees. … It is not uncommon for him to intentionally walk into people and make others feel uncomfortable.”
In this case, he’s being accused of sending racist texts and voicemails, calling Martin “Big Weirdo,” and pressuring him to pay $15,000 towards the offensive line’s trip to Las Vegas, an outing he didn’t even attend, among other things. Incognito has been suspended and the investigation is ongoing.
But as new details emerge, so do more questions, such as, what does this all say about NFL culture? And if this sort of thing can happen in the NFL, what other unlikely groups are facing similar issues?
Emily Bazelon, is a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. She is the author of Sticks and Stones
Chester Pitts, former American football offensive lineman of the National Football League (NFL); played with the Houston Texans from 2002-2009 and the Seattle Seahawks in 2010