The Miami Dolphins football player who was suspended this week for allegedly harassing and bullying one of his teammates spoke today for the first time since the scandal broke. In an interview with Fox Sports, offensive linesman Richie Incognito complained that his words had been misunderstood, and he was neither a bully nor a racist: “This isn’t an issue of bullying. This is an issue of my and [Jonathan Martin's] relationship, where I’ve taken stuff too far,” Incognito said.
Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins, his third NFL team in five years, amid allegations he had bullied Martin on and off the field. Among other things, Incognito sent Martin a number of threatening text messages and voice mails, one of which referred to Martin as a "half-n***er" and another which threatened his family. All of this led to Martin having an "emotional breakdown" and leaving the team suddenly at the end of October.
As the Times wrote, the incidents didn't surprise anyone who knows Incognito: "A snarling, tattooed, 6-foot-3 dynamo, Incognito dominated opponents even as he stretched the boundaries of civil conduct during games and in everyday life." Incognito admitted he left the voicemail with the n-word, but he glided over it: "I'm not a racist. And to judge me by that one word is wrong." Of course, this isn't the first time he's been recorded using such language.
Altogether, Incognito thinks his words have been misconstrued, and outsiders just don't understand how football culture works: "When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come up across the screen, I’m embarrassed by it," he said. "I’m embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates how we communicate, it’s vulgar. It’s, it’s not right. When the words are put in the context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised, but people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another."
As Deadspin notes, the interview was a softball: "He was interviewed by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, who's given Incognito MMA training and has a personal and (presumed) business relationship with him. The interview was a fucking joke." Incognito also did not address accusations that Dolphins coaches had ordered a “code red” against Martin, a command to "toughen up" Martin: "Sources say Incognito was doing his job, but they admit he crossed the line."
And this isn't the first incident in which Incognito has been accused of being a bully: "I'm not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag," former tight end Cam Cleeland, an eight-year veteran who retired in 2005, told the LA Times. "When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time. It was bizarre beyond belief."