NFL may not be able to discipline Incognito


As the NFL contemplates the question of whether and to what extent the players deemed to have harassed Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin should be punished, the league has a potentially major problem when it comes to Dolphins guard Richie Incognito.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement states that only one penalty may be imposed on a player.

Article 46, Section 4 — titled “One Penalty” — says that there shall be only (duh) one penalty:  “The Commissioner and a Club will not both discipline a player for the same act or conduct.  The Commissioner’s disciplinary action will preclude or supersede disciplinary action by any Club for the same act or conduct.”

Per a league source, the NFLPA intends to fight any discipline of Incognito based on Article 46, Section 4.  The potential battleground comes from the question of whether the league would be disciplining Incognito for the “same act or conduct.”

The league could argue that the eight-game suspension (two of which were unpaid) imposed by the Dolphins applies only to the treatment of Jonathan Martin, and that Incognito could be disciplined for the homophobic harassment of “Player A,” who has identified himself as Andrew McDonald, and/or the racial harassment of the assistant trainer.  The NFL also could discipline Incognito for attempting to obstruct an expected investigation by urging teammates to destroy the “fine book” which contained an admission by Incognito that he had “broken” Jonathan Martin.

Of course, the NFL would have to carefully craft any letter informing Incognito of further discipline in a way that navigates the legal minefield created by Article 46, Section 4.  And since any appeal of any further discipline would end up back on Commissioner Goodell’s desk, it would be hard for Incognito to prevail.

That doesn’t make it right, or fair.  Incognito could have created a potential mess for the Dolphins and the NFL by declining to convert his maximum unpaid suspension of four games to two games without pay and six paid games, which would have forced the Dolphins to bring him back or cut him late in the 2013 season.  He allowed the team and the league to avoid that specific complication; even if he’s subject to further discipline for conduct unrelated to the harassment of Martin, Incognito deserves some consideration for not trying to force his way back to the field last season.

64 responses to “NFL may not be able to discipline Incognito

  1. Somebody who needs a tough OG who doesn’t go into rehab when his teammates give him a little flack.

  2. The solution is easy. Find out what the Dolphins punished him for, say ‘conduct detrimental to the team’ then the NFL can punish him for creating a hostile work environment/abuse of staff/or some other such thing that covers another aspect of his misconduct.

  3. Whether you like him or not, Incognito has probably been punished enough by having his name dragged through the mud for months and months. I thought he was a bully at first, and maybe he has been, but his text exchanges with Martin seemed more along the lines of friendship than harassment.

  4. Good, I’m glad they won’t discipline him. Have you seen those chat logs where Martin said he’s going to kill Richies whole family? It’s not like Martin is Mr.Golden boy here. If he’s not getting disciplined, neither should Incognito.

  5. Do what you will with Incognito, but Jonathon Martin needs to be called out for not informing anyone of all the baggage he was carrying when he came into the league.

  6. The NFL knows this already, and they will do nothing more. No crime was committed. There is no competitive issue at play. The only people harmed were other members of the Dolphins. This was handled like any company would handle a H.R. issue, and no having the facts, seems like the Dolphins did just about the right thing.

  7. A lot of teams will want him, almost every player in the league has come out in support of Incognito. They give the obligatory it was wrong, but they support him. Everyone will learn from this, we now know to take mental health more seriously, Incognito will know to find that boundary not to cross along with all players. And teams will shy away from players with questionable emotional stability in the draft, I would assume.

  8. Well, depending on which player you talk to, Rich didn’t do anything wrong, and is a great person. Or, he’s person whose actions require toleration.

  9. I agree that his conduct was bad however wouldn’t the league need the asst trainer or McDonald to file a complaint before they could discipline him specifically for harassment? I ask because for it to be harassment it must be unwelcome. You cannot assume harassment for another person. They would be better off with something along the lines of conduct detrimental.

  10. He may not be disciplined for the harassment of Martin, but there are plenty of other issues that will allow for more than enough penalties and deterrence for this sort of activity in the future…….Hand it out now and lets get to the combine.

  11. and yet there’s no talk of sanctioning Martin .. who threatened to kill Ingcognito’s family .. while texting i believe. When Ingcognito texts something it’s harrassment. When Martin does it, it’s different?

    Martin is every bit as guilty as Incognito if not more. After all, instead of reporting his discomfort to his team, he reported it to his lawyer parents who instructed him on how to get the most money and sympathy for it.

  12. The only opinion that matters in this is that of the players and their lack of support for Martin is deafening.

    You can’t punish him any more than he’s already been punished because you can’t punish one person for the status quo.

  13. If the leagues action supersedes the teams what is the problem if the league does a stronger penalty?

  14. PS: They can use some that $44 million of Goodell’s salary to hire a harassment consultant.

  15. You know, Pillsbury isn’t an elite player. I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody wants to deal with his baggage and he sits around until someone gets hurt in the regular season.
    Teams are getting tired of problem children disrupting locker room chemistry and after his tweet the other day, he’s just proving he hasn’t learned anything.
    If he is the difference between a team being competitive, or having success, your team has much bigger issues.

  16. The battles lines have been drawn and in the NFL the wheels of justice move slowly. At some point he will play again but most owners will have nothing to do with him. He is toxic.

  17. Oh, Martin tried to befriend his bully? That NEVER happens with people that are bullied.

  18. i don’t see any teams picking up either one of them. i would be upset if my team signed either one. it’s not like these are h.o.f. caliber players that you might be willing to look past all this. and incognito is a bulley, yes he acted like they were friends but that doesn’t mean anything. what about the girl at the golf course incognito was sticking a golf club between her legs? and when she started to press charges she was paid to hide it.

  19. I suspect the NFL won’t have to punish Incognito, as he will pay the price with either no job or a grossly reduced salary moving forward — not to mention the world now thinks he’s a loser.

  20. So double jeopardy in football, OK. What about Ritchie’s serious personality glitch which has not been addressed. Does the NFLPA believe that he is capable of interacting like a regular human being when in the company of other people.

    The penalty levied has been an inconvenience to him and his career. He will do the same again in some other place because he does not believe he did anything wrong. What if he is picked up by a team and they later have to cut him, which essentially may really be the end of the road for him. He needs to transition to something else.

  21. didn’t he already lose enough money for calling a grown man names? I’m not defending the terrible joking/hazing he did. I struggled with my own bullying for years while growing up near a basketball court. I got over the fact that I can’t jump years ago but it took serious counseling. that goodness I know longer have to hear that nonsense any longer and hopefully the movie will soon be banned forever

  22. To begin, he is on the wrong side of thirty, secondly, guards are far from irreplaceable, lastly, this PARTICULAR guard’s skills are diminished, unless a team needs a position player whose most prevalent talents are to draw penalties and, of course cause major distractions. I would say the NFL doesn’t NEED to “punish” him…The oafish bore has administered his own PERSONAL and PERMANENT Elba.

  23. Who gives a SHT? NFL is all about he-said, she-said and sexual orientation. Been watching the NFL for 40 years. Now it’s an idiot reality show. Who cares anymore? Or let me ask that in 5 years.

  24. Whether Incognito is finished now or in five years – what the heck kind of job can he get after football? He is not articulate or even tempered enough to go into broadcasting or coaching. Nor has he shown the basic common sense or people skills required to go into business where he actually has to work with other people.

    Honestly, I can’t see him doing anything but living off of ‘being Incognito’ and selling autographed memorabilia. He certainly can’t do public speaking and hiring him to be the guest celebrity for charity events/sports tournaments or organized fan events like cruises would be a disaster and lawsuits waiting to happen.

    Of course, it always possible that he might one day develop some self-awareness and a conscience, and then he could make something of himself after football. But he is a long way from starting that journey as the last week’s behavior has shown.

  25. According to another poster here, it is up to the individual making the claim whether harassment occurred or not. I’m not a legal expert, so I am not sure what the legal definition is or how you go about proving it.

    Only Martin according to the Wells report said he felt harassed. McDonald did not say he felt that way, and the trainer didn’t say it either. He was then coerced into saying something to the investigator.

    You’d also have to wonder if the NFL tries to punish Incognito, that they would also have to punish Jerry, Pouncey, and then even Martin who engaged in the same behavior.

    Should be interesting to see how this all plays out. None of the people involved in this incident seem clean.

  26. 1) Incognito continued to RELENTLESSLY harass and belittle a person whom Incognito knew FULL WELL had mental issues including suicidal thoughts.

    2) Incognito fined himself $200 for “breaking JMart”, thereby LAUGHINGLY TAKING CREDIT for Martin’s leaving the team.

    3) Incognito asked his teammates to destroy the fine book to OBSTRUCT INVESTIGATION.

    Incognito and his defenders are the ones with the real mental issues. Anyone who reads the Report and isn’t disgusted by Incognito has mental issues.

    Incognito bullied Martin not to make Martin a better player, or to form tighter bonds among the Corp. He bullied Martin because he knew Martin would do nothing, so it became a sick game for Incognito and his friends to see how cruel he could be to Martin.

    Incognito will never play in the NFL again. The NFL is not a league of angels, but that does not mean it has to be a league of 100% Grade A Certifiable Douche Bags.

  27. Jonathon Martin is a wimp, he needs to grow up and get a “real job”. This is not all on Incognito, or Jerry or Pouncy. Martin was just as much to blame, but was a “baby” and had to run away from the team.

  28. Or the league could impose a full year suspension on him for his conduct against Martin, with time served as a result of the team punishment counting toward that time. Then, they could impose additional punishments successively for each additional charge. That could give him a year for each additional charge and a total of 2 1/2 years of additional time – which would basically force him out of the league until he is irrelevant. Then he would be welcome back if he could still compete…

  29. Incognito may be done in Miami but NFL fans’ memories are notoriously short (and many have no problem with his behavior – just check out his supporters on this thread). Surely there’s a team somewhere for him, and with luck he’ll land in a market where he can get a sweet deal endorsing rifle scopes.

  30. He does not deserve consideratoin for getting paid for 6 games but not playing after what he did. He should have been cut immediately without pay and let the NFL figure it out from there.

  31. This interpretation seems insane to me, but if that’s seriously the league’s take, then Cleveland needs to “fine” Josh Gordon $1 and “suspend” him for 5 minutes for reefer or purple drank, thus eliminating the possibility of the league imposing an indefinite suspension on him the next time it happens.

  32. Philbin is clean.

    If it wasn’t for jeff ireland signing richie incognito nine months before Philbin was hired… NONE of this would have happened.

    ireland was too stupid to see that every team that suspended/cut/fired richie incognito got better after he was gone.

  33. Harassment must be unwelcome to be classified as harassment. But it’s confusing when it’s OK for a player to get his chops busted by one player, but another player doing the same is accused of harassment because the player says so. It is this selectivity that makes the harassment charge stick and difficult to define.

    Incognito committed lots of individual bad acts which encompass one punishment. The NFL needs to stand on what it has levied already. They can’t punish him again.

    What they can do is prevent him from playing in the NFL again. He has no grounds for a lawsuit if he decides to take people to court; i.e, accuse owners of collusion.

  34. mark my words; Richie Incognito will be a Niner by next season, Vernon Davis has already told the organization that he is a great guy and that he would be very detrimental to the Niners.

  35. He doesn’t deserve discipline at this point, he will pay plenty in the life ahead of him, the team does deserve much. If the team is punished in an appropriate manner (not Bounty-gate like), other weakly lead teams will have then have to monitor the basic human respect element of their locker room or beware. Good message, send it.

  36. Incognito has never played on a winning team in the NFL. He is always picked up by losers trying get someone tough. Winning teams do not want him in the same State as they are in.

  37. Player “A” hasn’t corroborated anything that has been alleged. Seems to me that if the guy he’s accused of harassing is saying that he doesn’t recall any of that then it would be pretty hard to fine/suspend him.

  38. All I know is that the vast majority of his teammates say he’s a great guy to have on your team. Not only that but players who’ve never played alongside him, like Vernon Davis from SF, speak up for him as well. If you read the texts between him and Martin, even Martin seems to have liked him – they definately came across as friends. I can’t recall another white player given the honorary title of “n****r” by his black teammates. The people who appear to have the biggest problem with him are the media. I’m betting he gets another job pretty quickly whenever the Dolphins decide to release him.

  39. Again, how come nobody ever filed a harassment complaint? Up until a Bully Allegation.. That doesn’t Fly, not even in the corporate world, If any employee never files a complaint .. than management has no liability.

  40. doctorrustbelt says: Feb 17, 2014 9:24 PM

    Philbin is clean.

    If it wasn’t for jeff ireland signing richie incognito nine months before Philbin was hired… NONE of this would have happened.


    It all happened under Philbin’s watch. His Offensive Line Coach and he is the Boss.. because of “big wierdos” like you .. they will soon make Head Coach FATHEADS.

  41. He should be banned from the NFL for life.
    If any GM signed this guy after all he’s done, they ought to have their head examined.

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