Here is a link to my column about harassment on the Miami Dolphins. The full text appears below:
You learn new things — troubling things — about sports all the time.
The past few decades we’ve learned about performance-enhancing drugs, especially in baseball and track and field, and we’ve formed opinions and come to terms with the regrettable phenomenon. Now this.
It turns out some Miami Dolphins — one in particular — allegedly harassed offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, harassed him so harshly Martin had some sort of emotional breakdown, or maybe he just said, “Screw it,” and he left the team. According to reports, he is being psychologically counseled.
The big harasser was offensive guard Richie Incognito, who no longer will walk amongst us incognito. He is now well known for what he is. Incognito went from incognito to notorious.
After Martin left the team, the Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely. He was the leader of a disgusting team culture. I am not saying this culture is limited to the Dolphins.
I imagine it’s not.
I will say one thing about the 49ers. They are the football team I cover the most. I’ve covered them for decades. To the best of my ability to judge these things, the 49ers don’t have a culture of hazing or harassing of younger players — of any players.
I can’t swear to this because I am not behind closed doors. This is only my hunch, but it’s a hunch based on experience. At practice, the veterans will drop their pads as they walk off the field, and the rookies will pick up the pads and carry them into the locker room. It’s like the veterans are saying, “I’m old and need a hand.” And the rookies gladly carry the pads as the veterans carried them in their day. This is a far cry from what happened to poor Jonathan Martin.
Back to the Dolphins: According to reports, veterans insisted rookies pay them for various trips, although veterans usually make more money than rookies.
According to one report, Incognito forced (extorted?) Martin to give 15 grand to teammates for a Vegas trip. Martin “contributed,” but chose not to go with his “pals.”
Last season, Martin’s rookie season, veterans called him “Big Weirdo.” How would you like to be called Big Weirdo on the job? Is it even legal to do that?
I don’t know why they called Martin Big Weirdo. I do know he went to Stanford and Stanford players must seem a little weird in the NFL, although things worked out pretty well for Jim Plunkett and John Elway.
In one NFL locker room players recently and openly debated the sexual orientation of a former Stanford player — not Martin. Good grief.
Martin blew his fuse when his teammates pulled a miserable prank on him last week. When he sat down at a table in the cafeteria, all the other players got up and walked away. After that, Martin also walked away, walked right off the team.
In case you think Incognito is getting a raw deal — he says he is and some players say the way they treated Martin is normal and no big deal — well, in case you think that, consider the tweets from Adam Schefter, transcripts of a voicemail Incognito recklessly left Martin last spring.
It was a voicemail filled with vulgar, threatening, racial and scatological references. Normal treatment? Raw deal? Indeed.
You want to know what’s weird. Incognito has played next to Martin on the offensive line for the past season and a half.
More weirdness: The offensive linemen are the reasonable ones on a football team. Think Joe Staley. Offensive linemen are as close to normal as you get. They are the guy next door who has a battery cable and happily helps when your car battery goes dead. How would you like Richie Incognito to live next door?
You want to know what’s even more weird. Incognito is part of the Dolphins’ six-player leadership council, you know, the wise veterans, the guys you go to for balanced advice.
And that brings us to the Dolphins’ coaches.
Didn’t they notice what was going on? I mean, rookies allegedly were required to pay $30,000 for a team dinner, and the coaches didn’t know? A whole tableful of players walked away when Martin sat down, and the coaches didn’t notice? Players called Martin Big Weirdo, and the coaches didn’t hear?
When the news broke that Martin left the team, the Dolphins initially said reports of harassment were speculative. The Dolphins finally came to their senses and agreed to investigate Incognito and Martin and the team culture in conjunction with the league and Players Association.
So, what have we learned from this grim, sad, shocking episode?
Morons exist in the NFL.
That’s no surprise. Live long enough, you learn morons exist everywhere.
Teams don’t see what they don’t want to see.
When teams are forced to see what they don’t want to see, they say and do the right things.
When teams say and do the right things too late, teams look like hypocrites.
Teams say they care about players as people.
Teams don’t really care about players as people.
Teams care only about winning.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.