Richie Incognito interview explains a lot about Jonathan Martin episode

The Post Sports Live crew discusses the suspension of Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito and why his racist and threatening text messages to teammate Jonathan Martin are not typical NFL hazing. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Sally Jenkins
Columnist November 12, 2013

My name is Richie Incognito, and you can’t judge me by what I say or do because I’m a football player. How I sound or act, that’s not really who I am; it’s just my NFL environment. I decided to break my silence and explain this, because of something my very best buddy and honorary black brother Jonathan Martin once told me. He said, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” So I figured I would take his advice on that.

Even though I sound like a pig or a meathead, I want people to know I’m a really good guy. Everything I did to Jonathan Martin, like shouting a racial slur at him, was just to draw him closer to me. To judge me by that one word is wrong. I’m not a racist, and those closest to me know that, because I used the word all the time on Jonathan in jokes. What I really meant by it, was, “Let’s go to the malt shop and get a chocolate shake.”

It’s just a big misunderstanding, maybe because Jonathan and me talk so different, what with him going to Stanford and studying all that foreign western classic literature. He’s always using all those funny words. In complete sentences. Like, who does that? One day he says, “This place is the apotheosis of an old, dying NFL culture.” I said, hey, we don’t want any fungal infections in here. You got some kind of apotheosis, see the trainers.

Just because it’s really foul in our Miami Dolphins locker room, don’t mean anything — it’s a workplace, right, not, like, the real world. He called it “an abattoir.” I said, hey man, don’t say that; there’s no ladies lingerie in here.

All of this stuff that’s coming out, the racism, the bad words, the meetings in strip clubs, speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to the culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of brotherhood. It shows you the kind of leader I was. I forged a unit with no cracks in our solidarity; you can see that from our record, and the fact that Ryan Tannehill has been sacked more than any quarterback in the league. Ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room who had Jonathan Martin’s back the absolute most, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you me. And they know that because I was always hitting him in it.

Jonathan’s lawyer says he experienced “a malicious personal attack,” but again, that’s because he doesn’t understand how our locker room relationship was. We’d carry on. We’re big, physical guys. I would put my hands on him, just messing around. Like head-butting. Give him a belly shot. Normal stuff, that’s all.

It’s something that to the outside world doesn’t seem right, but to my guys, to my teammates, the jokes and pranks and fights were normal inside our locker room. But maybe Jonathan didn’t understand that either. One time, he starts talking about the Punic Wars. I said, “Hey man, don’t call these guys small.”

When Jonathan left the team without talking to me, that’s what really confused me. How was I supposed to know he was in all kinds of pain? I told him, NFL guys never say anything about hurting. “People will think you’re one of them ciceros,” I said. He did tell me he was having some stomach problems, so I told him, “Well, isn’t that what Tacitus is for? Why don’t you just swallow some of that?”

But I’m not sure we got each other’s meaning. Like, one day, he’s going on and on about his “Aeneid.” I said, “Dude, just call a knee a knee, okay?”

Sometimes Jonathan didn’t hang with us like a manned-up guy should. He didn’t want to go on our Vegas trip, and starts saying something about “Aphrodite.” I said, we’re not gonna break any laws out there, so no one will be aphrodited. But he still didn’t come on the trip his rookie year. So the whole offseason we joked around and told him he would have to pay a big fine for not going on the trip. It was a big joke. Then it kind of shifted, and the season began and we started riding him more about this trip, kept riding him to pay a $10,000 fine for missing the trip. It was a big joke. We were serious about it, but we were also joking. We weren’t going to make him pay it, but when he asked us if he really had to pay the $10,000 fine, we said, “Yeah, yeah.” So he shows up with a check for $10,000. Now, what this fine money does is, it finances our next offseason flight to Vegas. We were just kidding around, so we took it.

Well, I don’t think he understood that either. He starts talking about Archimedes. I said, “You put steak sauce on that after you grill it?”

All of this should tell you that Jonathan and I were really, really close, there was no one closer on or off the field. I tried to explain to him how all this NFL stuff works. I know he got it because he said, “that sounds more like an indictment than a defense.” And I take him at his word on that.

For more by Sally Jenkins, visit washingtonpost.com/jenkins.

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