There are so many thoughts I have about the bullying (alleged, hey, I’m still a lawyer) going on in Miami between offensive lineman Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.
First off, the most unreported angle on this is that Incognito’s father was caught on Deadspin.com having posted on message boards anonymously in support of his son and trashing Martin. If that wasn’t so awful it would be hilarious, but my guess is that the parent doesn’t realize that you can still love your child even when you let them know they are wrong. In this case, Richie’s father (allegedly, and assume everything else I report here is also an allegedly) wrote that Martin was a drug addict, liar, tried suicide, etc.
I have a 10 year old son who hasn’t been viciously bullied, but there is one child that picked on him a bit. It made me very defensive for my son and worried. The first thing I told him was that if he feels threatened, he needs to go to a teacher. The second thing I told him was that bullying is wrong and that the worst thing he could do is bully someone else. Two wrongs don’t make a right, etc.
When Richie was a child he was bullied for being overweight. Some people take that pain and realize that they’d never do that to someone else. Others say if it happened to me then I can do it to others. That was Richie’s choice.
So as you look further in to the story, you learn that Richie made Martin pay $15,000 for a Las Vegas trip that Martin did not attend. You learn that Richie put a sign on his locker that says “I hate rookies.” And of course worst of all, Richie called Martin the N word, said he was going to kill him, said he wanted to shit down his throat, hurt his mother, sent threatening texts and apparently picked on him to the point that Martin snapped.
We are all lucky, nobody more so than Richie that Jonathan Martin put his Stanford education to good use and didn’t respond to being picked on by buying a gun and shooting up the Dolphins locker room. Instead he slammed a tray table down at the cafeteria and walked away, taking a leave of absence from the team.
Some people say that since Martin is an adult and is humongous (6 foot 5, 320 pounds) he should have simply let his fists do the talking. Well let’s say he breaks his hand in that fight. He’s then suspended without pay. Let’s say he kills Richie. He’s going to jail. Should I have told my son to throw down with his 10 year old tormenter (regardless of the fact that my kid is the tiniest in his class) or was the right thing to do to tell him to steer clear of the boy and let me and his teacher know if anything else happens? Does the advice change once you become an adult or if you can physically handle yourself?
I don’t think it does. The team should have had the ability to step in and say enough is enough, especially given that Richie has shown a pattern of bullying behavior and bad decisions for years. I’d imagine that if the head coach or GM told him that if he doesn’t knock it off and become a good teammate he’ll get cut that he’d change his behavior. But that didn’t happen.
So the question is, what should happen to Richie? His career is over. No team is going to take a chance on a guy that has been given multiple opportunities and failed. It’s just not worth it. But I don’t think that’s enough. He committed assault with his threats. He committed extortion with the Vegas trip payment. These are crimes. Martin being a big guy or an adult or a football player doesn’t change any of that. And if the purpose of jail is partly to act as a deterrent for others, I can’t think of a better guy to put in an orange jump suit than Richie. Perhaps the next bully will think to himself before picking on someone.
And I don’t care if any of his teammates like him or it’s “typical locker room stuff.” Would it be ok if he was a small kicker? Would it be ok in a Chicago ad agency against someone who is gay? Or in a law firm if it was a partner who constantly was bullying a first year associate? None of that is ok.
These are crimes, plain and simple. If someone illegally blocks you on the field, it’s part of the game. If they take off their helmet and hit you in the face with it when you aren’t looking, that would be a criminal case of battery. Nothing that happened between these two is part of the game. Maybe it’s part of some unwritten rules of locker room bravado that don’t apply to society anymore than it would to an “old school” boss who thinks his secretary should have to blow him.
It’s kind of sad that nobody in the locker room had the guts to stand up to Richie on behalf of Martin. Of course these are probably the same guys that think Martin’s a pussy for not fighting back with his fists. Had he killed Richie they would have said he should have just walked away.
You can’t excuse this behavior and then expect it not to happen again. If you do then the next time a kid at school shoots up his classmates, while it still isn’t justified, you would at least have to understand if they felt that nothing ever happens to tormenters. This is a great chance to set an example for others and show society that we are evolving and that this type of criminal behavior will not just be swept away without consequence.
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