I was saddened Monday morning to learn the Miami Dolphins had suspended starter Richie Incognito in the wake of puzzling reports another Dolphin, 6-foot-5, 350-pound tackle Jonathan Martin, had left the team in fear. Bullying is about cowards and to see it in the National Football League is not surprising in light of recent behavioral issues but sad just the same.
Then I opened my email yesterday and saw where an anti-gay activist had tried to bully me as well. Last Saturday I wrote that in my daily opinion that I believe that the city of Chattanooga should approve same-sex employee benefits later this week. I knew when I wrote it that it is a controversial subject but I think every employee should be treated fairly. Others feel differently, and their opinions I respect, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found on my Facebook page on Monday morning.
In response to my article, a Facebook “friend” April Eidson posted, “(Your writings) are always interesting. However, the piece has highly defensive denials of your own sexuality. I think you are gay, based upon defensiveness. You reiterate over and over you are not gay, which indicates to me you are concerned with the perception of being gay. You should explore the inner you, Advocate, and jump right out of that closet with (City Councilman) Chris Anderson.”
Oh my goodness! Not 15 minutes after I had read where the loathsome Incognito had used homosexual slurs and parts of human beings’ anatomy to bully his huge target, the same hatred was now being splashed on me and, while I can summon a lifetime of witnesses who would be most amused to testify about my sexual orientation, I can also see that none among us are too big to be bullied.
April’s belief that I am gay resulted in my day’s first belly laugh but in Jonathan Martin’s case it is far worse. An insider told Fox Sports’ respected Jason La Canfora that is exactly why the second round draft choice from Stanford left the Miami team. “It's hard to picture a 6-foot-5, 350-lb football player as being the victim of bullying, but that's exactly what took place here,” Canfora quoted his contact. “He is genuinely scared of what (Richie) Incognito might do to him, or has threatened to do to him.”
Shortly after the embarrassed Dolphins suspended Incognito on Sunday night, the transcript of an April telephone message allegedly left by Incognito on Martin’s voice-mail was leaked to ESPN. “Hey, wassup, you half (racial slur) piece of (profanity.) I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. (I want to) (profanity) in your (profanity) mouth. I am going to slap your (profanity) mouth. (I am going to) slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. (Profanity) you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
Incognito, who played at Nebraska before being suspended indefinitely, also played briefly at Oregon before being kicked off the Ducks team to end his college career. He is a noted thug in pro football circles, being voted as the “Dirtiest Player” in the NFL during the 2009 season and was “first runner-up” for the dubious award last season.
Incognito, a 9-year veteran, has been placed on indefinite suspension after playing in every game this season and it is being reported that both the Dolphins and the NFL have evidence of Incognito’s alleged cruelty. An official Dolphins statement read, “We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time. As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter."
For the record, my email about my Saturday story has been running about 40 percent in agreement, 30 percent in disagreement and 30 percent who didn’t seem to care. Collegedale has already approved same-sex employee benefits and Knoxville did so last week. Other cities in the state and the nation are also considering legislation despite vocal opposition.
I have long held the opinion that foul language, slurs and insults weaken an argument rather than bolster it and to call someone vile names, attack their character and hurl obvious lies always defames the accuser far more than the target. In a complex web of social media, one’s integrity is what matters and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Incognito’s career suffer perilous damage if an NFL investigation proves Martin’s claims are valid.
Bullying is rampant in our country – now all the way to the NFL -- and it will only stop when good people rise up and shout it down.