Roanoke
68° F
Overcast
Overcast
Advertisement

Richie Incognito: Hazing, bullying or hate crime?

Published On: Nov 07 2013 12:51:35 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 07 2013 12:53:00 PM EST
Richie Incognito

From Miami Dolphins

By attorney Melba Pearson, Special to THELAW.TV

Richie Incognito is not so incognito these days. Instead of receiving attention for his plays on the field, his career is possibly over due to his bullying of a teammate. Incognito is alleged to have made racist comments to Jonathan Martin, a fellow teammate on the Miami Dolphins, and bullying him to the point that Martin left the team. Ironically, Incognito appeared in a Dolphins public service announcement that is played at home games, asking fans to behave in a "civilized" manner, and not be unruly during games.

It seems crazy. Martin is 6'5", 312 pounds, and Incognito is 6'3", 319 pounds. One would think the two players, trained to hit hard on the field, would just fight it out in the locker room and call it a day. However, it went deeper than that. Incognito was part of a group of veteran players who hazed Martin, including forcing him to pay for them to go on a trip to Vegas, to a tune of $25,000. They played childish pranks on him, such as inviting him to sit with the group for a meal, then getting up and leaving him alone when he sat down at the table.

And then there were the racial comments. Incognito, who is white, called Martin (who is biracial) "half a n—" and threatened his family. Not to mention the ultimate sin … talking about Martin's mother. These threats were made in voicemails, as well as text messages. As a result, now there is even talk of charging Incognito with a federal hate crime. Under federal statutes resulting from the Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful to intimidate or threaten someone because of their race and participation in a protected activity (such as voting or participation in a state or federally-funded program).

Keep in mind, we watch football for fun; for the players, it's their workplace. The same workplace rules apply in football that apply to any other field of work. However, the NFL workplace is a very different animal. The aspect that is making this case unique is that of the "locker room" culture. Men are encouraged to be hard on each other emotionally, whack each other's backsides with towels, and be macho guys. As fans, we admire, as well as reward, their toughness on the field. However, there is no way to force players to turn that toughness off when they exit the field.

Also remember that Martin is a second-year player, having joined the team in the 2012 NFL draft from Stanford University. He's young (age 24), at a relatively new job, and is now being pushed around by veteran teammates. He wants to fit in; but how much is enough? Martin was viewed as vulnerable by the senior players, as well as possibly the coaching staff. Clearly, Martin took all he could until he suffered an emotional breakdown. No one wants to be harassed at work. Bullying turns a dream job into a living nightmare.

I doubt Richie Incognito will be federally prosecuted. Unless the Dolphins receive state or federal funding, it will be a stretch to find a link that would give Martin protection under the federal hate crime statutes. Secondly, there may be too much professional backlash for Martin, who has been traumatized to the point of taking a break from football and going to his home city for therapy. Without a cooperative victim, the case would be short-lived. Lastly, from the tone of the transcripts released of the texts/voice messages, it may be difficult to show that the statements were more than Incognito being an obnoxious bully. There may be an argument to be made for some sort of stalking charge. But, again, it would be weak at best. New reports surfaced that the Dolphins coaching staff may have egged Incognito on, encouraging him to "toughen Martin up." If that is the case, there may be a viable civil lawsuit. Coaches need to look at what kind of environment they are creating and act accordingly.

Should Incognito be prosecuted? No.

Fired? Absolutely.

Blacklisted from the NFL? Everyone deserves a second chance. If he issues an apology, comes out publicly against racism and bullying, and stops acting like an idiot, there may be some redemption in a season or two. His PR agent has a lot of work in the years ahead.

The author Melba Pearson is a prosecutor in South Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.

  • PHOTOS: Behind the scenes look at the 2015 Salem Fair

    Take a look at what's happening behind the scenes as inspectors make sure everything's ready to go for opening day.

  • Jennifer Lawrence, short hair, 2013

    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    Female stars who chopped off their hair

    Whether they chopped off their locks for a role or just for a fresh look, short hair is in for many of Hollywood's most famous women.

  • Allen Francis/WDBJ7

    PHOTOS: Chunk of wall missing at South Peak in Roanoke Co.

    A chunk of a decorative wall at the South Peak development in Roanoke County is missing. These pictures were taken June 29, 2015.

  • PHOTOS: UVA's return home celebration at John Paul Jones Arena

    After taking the championship title in the College World Series, the UVA baseball team returned home to celebrate!

  • Seattle Fourth of July fireworks

    iStock / rocksunderwater

    Most popular Fourth of July fireworks shows

    The Fourth of July is nearly here, which means it's time to take a look at the biggest and best fireworks celebrations across the U.S.

  • PHOTOS: How to turn off Frequent Locations on Android phone

    These are instructions on how to turn off Frequent Locations on your Android phone.

  • PHOTOS: Summer Beer Festival at Virginia Tech

    A large crowd came out to the Summer Beer Festival at Virginia Tech. There was live entertainment, an assortment of craft beers to try, and food from local restaurants.

  • Virginia flag

    Provided

    New traffic laws go into effect Wednesday

    Several new Virginia traffic laws take effect on Wednesday. Most are safety provisions.

  • What could get you in trouble this weekend

    7 things you need to know about state police enforcement on July 4 weekend

    Here are seven things you need to know about how Virginia State Police is stepping up enforcement for the July 4 holiday weekend.

  • UPDATED: Jim Weaver, former Virginia Tech athletic director, dies

    Virginia Tech's former athletic director died early Wednesday night.

  • Dereck Merrill 070115

    Kimberly Munc

    Blacksburg man who overdosed on drugs thankful for new Good Samaritan Law

    Despite his obstacles, Dereck Merrill is thankful today. Especially now that a new law is in effect.

  • Fire causes major damage to home in Vinton

    Crews were called to the 500 block of Polk Avenue around 9:30 p.m.

  • Fourth of July Events - 2015

    Date

    LocationEvent Start TimeFireworks Start TimeDetails
    4-Jul

    Abingdon - Harry L. Coomes Recreation Center

    all day9:45 PMSwimming, music, food and family fun.
    4-JulBastian - Union Church8:00 AM9:00 PMFlea Market, 5K & 10K, food & music, fireworks.
    4-JulBlacksburg - Downtown2:00 PM9:30 PMParade followed by a free family movie ("The Lorax") at The Lyric Theatre. 6pm begins the Blacksburg Community Band and activities at Municipal Park
        4-JulBrookneal - Patrick Henry National Memorial3:00 PM9:15 PMAdmission is $10 per car - up to 5 passengers; $2 for each additional passenger.Bring your lawn chairs or blankets to comfortably watch Patrick Henry give his speech at 7:00 and to watch the fantastic fireworks display at 9:15. You might also want to bring a flashlight to aide you after dark.
    4-JulBuchanan - Town Park, 485 Lowe Street6:30 PM10:00 PMCarnival with games, parade, rides, food and music
    4-JulChristiansburg High School10:00 AM9:15 PMFestival on Main Street is 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The football stadium will open at 8:30 p.m. for watching fireworks. Fireworks start at 9:15 p.m. No pets allowed.
         4-JulClifton Forge 11:00 AM at dark Parade, music (bring your own chair), lunch, art displays, fireworks.
    4-JulDanville - Carrington Pavillion6:00 PMduskEntertainment, arts & crafts for kids, food and amusement rides
    4-JulGalax/Independence - Downtown10:00 AM8:30 PMParade and fireworks
    4 -JulGiles County - Newport11:00 AMTBDParade starts at the Christian Church on Route 42, just off of Route 460. Travels east on Route 42 to the Newport Ballpark
    4-JulHillsville4:00 PMby 10:00 PMParade, special activities, food, entertainment, games
    7/3 to 7/5Homestead Resortvarious10:00 PMFamily cookout with music & entertainment
    7/2 to 7/5Lexington - Balloon Rally & Fourth of July Celebrationall weekendunknownPiloted balloon rides, tethered balloon rides, balloon glow, live music, food and craft vendows, children's activities, antique car show and fireworks.
    4-JulMartinsville - Hooker Field7:00 PMat conclusion of gameMartinsville Mustangs baseball game with special fireworks to follow. $6 general admission
    3-JulMartinsville Speedway3:00 PMTBDMusic, food, games, carinval rides and fireworks
    4-JulNarrows - Town Park10:00 AM9:45 PMChildren's parade, music, basketball & volleyball tournamenets, inflatables, kid's activities, food, water sports and contests.
        3-JulNational D-Day Memorial10:00 AMno fireworksCelebrate Independence Weekend with a visit to the D-Day Memorial.  Tours will be offered throughout the day.  Regular fees apply.  The Memorial will close at 5 PM, however, fireworks can be viewed from Centertown Bedford, Liberty Lake Park, or the Army Reserve Center on Rt. 460.
    2-JulPembroke - Mountain Lake Lodge5:00 PM10:00 PMMusic, refreshments, and fireworks over the lake. Bring your own chair or blanket.
         4-JulRadford - Bisset Park2:00 PM10:00 PM"Spirit of America Celebration" with music, vendors, contests, children's activities and more!
    4-JulRoanoke - Elmwood Park - TAP Hope Revolution11:00 AMno fireworksMusic, food & beverages, kids zone
    4-JulRoanoke - River's Edge Sports Complex5:00 PM9:30 PMMusic & activities. Bring your own chair.
    2-JulRocky Mount - Independence Festival5:00 PMAt Franklin County High School; music, fireworks, food and activities.
    4-JulSmith Mountain Lake5:00 PMjust after darkActivities, music and food at Parkway Marina
        4-JulVinton - War Memorial Grounds6:00 PM9:30 PMChildren's entertainment including inflatables, stilt walker, balloon animals and juggling. A variety of festival foods will be available.
    7/3 to 7/5Wintergreen Resortall weekendunknownMusic, block party, movie under the stars, chairlift rides, game and fireworks
         4-JulWythe County/Rural Retreat3:00 PMduskHot dog eating contest, classic cars cruise-in, kids activities, vendors & music.
    4-JulWytheville - Downtown12:00 PMby 10:00 PM

    Food vendors, kid's activities, hot dog eating contest, classic car cruise, and music.

    4- JulMarion6:00 PM10:00 PM

    The “Rock, White and Blues” concert featuring Marion’s own Michael Shaun Brown along with Dirty White Lies, will take place at the Farmers Market Pavilion, adjacent to the Marion Post Office on the corner of Chestnut Street and Cherry Street. It’s a free community concert. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the fun!

  • power-outages

    Power restored in Christiansburg, Roanoke areas

    More than 7,000 Appalachian Power customers were affected

  • UPDATE: Both lanes open on I-81 North in Rockbridge Co. after tractor-trailer fire

    According to VDOT both lanes of I-81 North near mile marker 176 in Rockbridge County are open.

  • First round of Greenbrier Classic

    First round of Greenbrier Classic

    Thursday's first round saw a lot of shuffling throughout the day on the leaderboard.

  • 60 WISHES: Woman blesses pastor with $300 in Wytheville

    For our next wish, we decided to come to downtown Wytheville to this historic landmark known as the Pencil.

  • (img1)Weaver extra footage 070215 (1)

    WEB EXTRA: A look back at Jim Weaver's accomplishments

    WDBJ7 archive video that highlights Jim Weaver's accomplishments. He died on Wednesday night.

  • Three Southwest Virginia hunters are turning their passion into fame

    Three friends from Galax and Hillsville are the stars of a new show called Red Rising.