The NFL brouhaha involving two teammates on the Miami Dolphins — in which a thuggish white named Richie (cue Geoffrey Holder) Incognito (6`3", 319) is accused of hazing and bullying an upper middle class half-black named Jonathan Martin (6`5", 312 pounds) — is a cornucopia of iSteve fixations.
For example, Martin is the son of a white woman and a black man with a Harvard degree
. Sound like anybody? Martin attended the top prep school in his region: not Punahou, but Harvard-Westlake. That`s a school that comes up frequently on iSteve for multiple reasons: it was my debate team`s arch-rival, it`s not impossible that my son lined up against Martin in a football game in the mid-2000s, it`s the alma mater of the NBA Collins twins, most notably, Jason Collins), etc. etc.
Martin went on to play football for Stanford. One observer noted
“Before, [Martin] wasn’t around Nebraska [Incognito`s college], LSU kind of guys. He’s always been around Stanford, Duke, Rice kind of players,” Eumont said. “In locker rooms full of Nebraska, LSU, Southern Cal players, Miami players, they’ll look at this as a weakness."
I may have mentioned Stanford, Duke, and Rice once or twice over the years.
I can identify with the apparently tattoo-less Martin more easily than with the heavily tattooed Incognito, but one iSteve-connection is that the acne-prone Incognito, who has a long history of bad behavior, has been accused (without proof) of being prone to `roid rage.
Of course, what makes this locker room story a national media obsession, on the other hand, is that it`s another racial man-bites-dog story, like the Duke lacrosse story or the KKK running amok at Oberlin. In this case, it`s a low class white bullying a high class black: Bull Connor hosing down Dr. Martin Luther King, that kind of thing that`s so beloved by the dominant worldview.
In contrast, consider Michael Jordan punching, say, teammate Steve Kerr in the face to, uh, encourage him. (Kerr is from the rarefied class of Protestant American Arabists
— his martyred father Malcolm Kerr
was president of the American University of Beirut.) Does that make Jordan a bully? Of course not! That just proves that MJ was the Greatest Competitor Ever.
But, but, but, Incognito used the N-word! And that`s all anyone needs to know.
Of course, in the real world, it all turns out to be much more complicated.
Armando Salguero writes in the Miami Herald
Incognito considered black in Dolphins locker room... ESPN analyst and former Dolphins wide receiver Cris Carter has know Mike Pouncey [the Dolphin`s black center, who played next to Incognito and Martin on the offensive line] since the player`s childhood. Today Carter said on air he recently spoke to Mike Pouncey and the center, who is Incognito`s friend, addressed race."They [the Dolphin players] don`t feel as if [Incognito`s] a racist, they don`t feel as if he picked on Jonathan repeatedly and bullied him, but if they could do it all over again there would be situations that they might change but they’re very, very comfortable with Richie,” Carter said.“They think it’s sad, not only that Jonathan’s not on the football team, but also that Richie is being depicted as a bigot and as a racist.”How is this possible?Well, I`ve spoken to multiple people today about this and the explanation from all of them is that in the Dolphins locker room, Richie Incognito was considered a black guy. He was accepted by the black players. He was an honorary black man.And Jonathan Martin, who is bi-racial, was not. Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito. "Richie is honarary," one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. "I don`t expect you to understand because you`re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It`s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you`ve experienced. A lot of things."Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered "soft" by his teammates and that`s a reason he`s not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players. His background — Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people — was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself.And so — agree with it or not, comprehend it or not — this is a reason the Dolphins haven`t turned on Incognito as a racist.