BY GREG COTE
Greg Cote: Miami Dolphins bullying scandal puts spotlight on troubling locker room ‘culture’
The controversy that has mushroomed and swarmed and swallowed the Miami Dolphins franchise and its team’s season has become a real life soap opera making mere football games seem incidental.
This thing is an unholy mess wherever you turn.
The bully – suspended guard Richie Incognito – comes off as a macho clown whose maturity got stuck in middle school or (benefit of doubt) high school. It is all but certain he’ll never play for Miami again and good riddance. Let him be some other city’s problem. Better yet, let him be a former NFL lineman.
The victim, the away-on-personal-leave tackle Jonathan Martin, unfortunately and unfairly gets stigmatized now as soft or weak or a snitch, all things tough to overcome for a professional athlete, and all because he’d had enough and wouldn’t play along with the curdled culture of the locker room. I’d be surprised if he plays for the team again.
And the coach, beleaguered Joe Philbin, comes off as the non-leader who either did nothing about what was going on or was oblivious to it, neither option speaking well of him. If his 4-4 team does not make the playoffs to save him, I think that and this bullying scandal together will see Philbin fired.
“I’m in charge of the workplace atmosphere,” Philbin acknowledged Monday, addressing a playoff-sized media crowd at least five times bigger what a normal week would have drawn.
The absence of leadership and discipline that allowed this to foment has created a national embarrassment for the franchise, a stain on the brand. The four-game losing streak was just football stuff. This in many ways is bigger. This has turned the Dolphins into a punchline or a case worthy of sociological examination.
This has turned the Dolphins into an episode of Dr. Phil.
Give Dolphins defensive star Cam Wake credit for the line of the day Monday. He sacked it. He’d been at his Davie training-camp lockerstall engulfed by dozens of media members, dwarfed by camera men on ladders and jabbing boom mikes, being asked not about football at all but about bullying, nonstop.
Finally a team publicist rescued him by announcing question-time had ended.
As the crowd unknotted itself, Wake said to everyone, to no one:
“Nobody cares about Tampa, huh!?”
Miami plays at Tampa Bay next, and nobody cared. This was Wake’s first media availability since his overtime sack for a safety heroically beat Cincinnati on Thursday night, and nobody cared.
Now the Today show is talking about the Dolphins. But they’re not talking about football.
Miami was right to suspend Incognito indefinitely late Sunday, as much as his departure hurts the team moving forward at one of its most needy positions. The suspension was in keeping with Philbin’s scrambling, after-the-fact pledge that the club won’t tolerate behavior that violates “a culture of respect for one another.”
If everything we’ve heard is true, suspension isn’t enough. Incognito should be waived, NFL nice-speak for fired.
Martin says Incognito left him “threatening and racially charged” text messages and voicemails, with one that has become public using the N-word and f-bombs and even threatening Martin’s mother. There were allusions to sexual orientation. Martin says he also was threatened and pressured by Incognito into paying $15,000 for Incognito and a few teammates to party in Las Vegas last summer.
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