(Originally posted on SportsRants.com)
In the Richie Incognito/ Jonathan Martin story we know so very little. On the surface the story is simple. One man bullied another, one man threatened another. Simple, neat, nothing is ever so simple.
It takes me back to my youth, to my days of watching Hogan’s Heroes. Sitting back I remember the wise, wise words of Sergeant Shultz, “I know nothing!” When I work on a story I always try to go in with that one simple mantra-“I know nothing” and it has served me well in the past. Too often we take the simple morsels of truth we discover and we treat them as gospel. We do not dig deeper. We do not ask the hard questions, the ones that need asking. Starting with the assumption that we don’t know anything allows us to be open for truths that we do not expect.
There are questions to be asked. These two men played together, side-by-side, for a year-and-a-half. Why didn’t something come up earlier? If the voice mail truly bothered him, why wait till now to act. He saved it since April. Why not bring it to the league and NFLPA in April, or the beginning of training camp, or on Monday when he walked away from the team and into counseling. Why let his teammates, his team, and his sport twist in the media for a week before acting?
The biggest problem in all of this is the bullying accusation. It is the poison pill; it is the bell that cannot be unrung. Those on Martin’s side will point to the bullying accusation as permission for anything he did. Maybe he did get bullied, maybe not. One man’s teasing or joking around may be another man’s bullying. It is not something easily proven either way. What about Martin’s participation in hazing and practical jokes?
Of course muddying the entire situation is the fact that to a man the entire locker room supports Incognito. Usually in cases like this you would see everyone distancing themselves from him. Based on the language in the voicemail, the accusations and his past behavior it would make sense to see the team distance itself from Incognito and this whole ugly mess. However, according to a story by the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley, the team seems to have his back. You have to ask why. Why is no one backing up Martin’s story? What is really going on here?
The story got worse on Thursday; Attorney David Cornwell released a statement for his client Jonathan Martin. The statement is referenced here by Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel. In his statement he added flame to the fire with more accusations, while stating that Martin looks forward to continuing his football career. For many there was a question if Martin even wanted to continue his career.
Jonathan Martin no longer feels like a victim looking for relief from a horrible working environment, he seems like a man looking for revenge. Everything that has happened since October 28th, when Martin left the team, feels deliberate. It feels like a well-orchestrated plan. No longer a victim, he seems like a man after his pound of flesh. I almost expect to hear him quoting the Wicked Witch for the Wizard of Oz, “I’ll get you… and your little dog too”
Two men’s football careers are likely over and a once proud franchise simply wonders where it all went wrong. Almost two weeks in and we have far more questions than answers, I do not think that is going to change anytime soon.