I have decided to postpone the final column in The Murray State Tradition series to discuss a topic of far greater importance this week.
Over the last several days, an incredibly disturbing and disappointing story has emerged out of the Miami Dolphins’ locker room.
Jonathan Martin, a second-year tackle, left the team last week after reports of bullying from fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito. As the days have gone on, more disgusting details have emerged regarding the actions and words of Incognito toward Martin.
Martin, an African-American, received voicemails from Incognito with obscenities ranging from blatant racism to sexually derogatory comments about his sister.
As a white male who has never been in a locker room for any reason other than to interview athletes, I realize my lens is clouded and my experience limited.
Perhaps the most disturbing part for me, however, was the acceptance of Incognito by his teammates.
Not a single one condemned Incognito for his actions. Instead they stood up for him.
Teammates attributed the actions to typical locker room dialogue – a pathetic justification, if you ask me.
In an NFL culture where players are expected to be bold, harsh and strong, the issue of the matter has been lost in criticism of Martin’s character.
Shannon Sharpe’s comments from NFL Today get to the heart of the problem.
“Ask your parents,” Sharpe said. “Ask your grandparents about the mountain that they climbed so that a black person in America could have respect, could have dignity – and that you allow this in an open locker room to take place is unacceptable.”
Simply attributing Incognito’s actions to “everyone is doing it,” is not in any form an acceptable answer.
It’s not about whether Martin handled it correctly or not. It’s about the acceptance and fostering of a culture of hate in the Dolphins’ locker room.
Thousands of people throughout this country’s history have paid far too great a price for this kind of garbage to be accepted in any workplace setting.
NFL locker room or not, this is the environment where these players are making their livings and no workplace should be a place of racism and bigotry.
I find this entire incident despicable, and sincerely hope Incognito is severely punished for his racism and hate.
More importantly, however, this incident has exposed a much grander flaw in the NFL and sports in general.
Locker room cultures such as the one depicted in Miami should not be tolerated anywhere in any sport.
This country has come a long way in acceptance and tolerance, but Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins have clearly shown how far as a nation we have yet to go.
Column by Jonathan Ferris, Staff Writer