At a time when it’s becoming more clear that Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin was the victim of harassment, plenty of people are pointing a finger at him for the way he handled the situation.
From former players like Tony Siragusa on Tuesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show to current players like Giants safety Antrel Rolle, there’s a mindset in NFL circles that Martin shouldn’t have blown the whistle on teammate Richie Incognito.
“They talk about teams being a family,” Siragusa told Patrick. “When you’re in the locker room, that’s like your home. . . . Things are handled in there and said in there that shouldn’t be brought out to the media. Plainly because the media and really the real world can handle a lot of those things and things that happen in that locker room. . . . I think [Martin] should have confronted Incognito. I think he should have went up to him and said ‘What’s your problem?’ or said something to him or kept it in house.”
It’s not simply a generational mindset.
“Richie Incognito, is he wrong? Absolutely,” Rolle told WFAN’s Joe & Evan. ”But I think the other guy is just as much to blame because he’s allowed it to happen. . . .
“You know, at this level, you’re a man. You’re not a little boy. You’re not a freshman in college. You’re a man. So I think everything has its limits. So there’s no way that another man is gonna make me pay for something that I choose not to pay for. . . .
“Hopefully he’s able to bounce back and recover from all that has happened and understand it, and take awareness of, you know, that you’re a grown-ass man. You need to stand up for yourself.”
Here’s the point that guys like Siragusa and Rolle (and many others) are missing. By following the channels that the league has put in place, Martin did stand up for himself.
Martin’s action weren’t just proper, they were courageous. Those same Dolphins players who have said positive things about Incognito since his exile from the Dolphins will be inclined to blame Incognito’s absence on Martin’s reluctance to “stand up for himself.” And it will make it harder for Martin to return to the team.
In a society where every issue seems to have two sides and there’s no subtlety or nuance or middle ground, NFL needs to make it clear to all players, coaches, broadcasters, and anyone else connected to the game that there can be no reasonable debate on this topic. Martin did the right thing. Indeed, Martin did the only thing he should have done.
Players who choose to stand up for themselves via physical and verbal confrontations risk an escalation that could turn ugly. Given the number of American workplaces in which disgruntled employees have committed horribly violent acts and in light of the high percentage of professional football players who own guns, getting in a guy’s face away from the field no longer should be regarded as an acceptable solution to harassment.
A truly grown-ass man will at all times refrain from violence, he’ll file a complaint, and he’ll deal with the flak from any meatheads who think that it’s still better to punch someone in the mouth.