After several weeks of covering the Saints bounty scandal in 2012, I took a step back, broadened the proverbial lens, and decided that the stuff the media was being fed by the NFL contained some serious flaws.
After several days of covering the latest NFL scandal, involving Dolphins guard Richie Incognito and Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin, it’s time to do the same.
But at a time when the media is being accused of rushing to judgment on Incognito, there’s one very important point to remember. The Dolphins rushed to judgment on Incognito, not the media. The media simply went along for the ride, just like it did with the Saints bounty scandal.
And it makes sense. The Dolphins, within a matter of hours after receiving evidence from Martin’s representatives supporting allegations of harassment, suspended Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team. The Dolphins reached a quick conclusion, and the Dolphins meted out swift and sudden punishment.
It was easy to adopt the notion that Incognito must have done something wrong. If he hadn’t, the Dolphins wouldn’t have suspended him. (Incognito’s rant on Twitter professing his innocence also made it easier to attach a black hat to his head.)
Now, as folks quibble over whether the controversial voice message from Incognito to Martin was done in jest and/or ended with a more friendly tone of voice and/or was played for teammates amid laughter, it’s important to remember that, for whatever reason, the Dolphins decided they had enough evidence to support a decision to suspend Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team.
No one knows the full extent of the evidence, because the Dolphins management isn’t talking. As time passes, however, the void is being filled by leaks and by Wednesday’s barrage of unauthorized on-the-record player comments supporting Incognito.
As evidence emerges that tends to suggest Martin possibly wasn’t harassed or that he possibly had some agenda to quit football while still being paid or that he’s possibly being pushed to make this an issue by his agents or parents or that he possibly has a real mental illness for which he needs treatment and care, the only thing we know for sure is that the Dolphins saw enough to suspend Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team.
Moving forward, it’s important to set aside any opinions that already have been reached and to keep an open mind as more facts become available. Incognito, we’re told, will be fighting his suspension. Through that process, plenty of facts will come out. An investigation of the Dolphins organization will be conducted by an outside lawyer, and the report will be made public. Through that process, plenty of facts will come out.
Through it all, we plan to review the facts, scrutinize them, understand how they fit within the bigger picture, and at all times to refrain from making any firm conclusions about what happened.
The strongest opinion we’ve formed so far is one to which we still adhere — Martin did the right thing by not physically confronting Incognito. Beyond that, any other potential opinions will be deferred until we know the rest of the story.
Even then, our final opinion may be that we still don’t know the whole story.
For more on the story that still has a lot more that we don’t know, here’s Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post from Thursday’s PFT Live.