Scandals sully NFL image

First off I just want to say, I thought the name Richie Incognito was just as real as the name “Carlos Danger.” As it turns out, Richie Incognito is indeed the man’s real name, and even more so, Incognito may possibly be more dangerous than Carlos. On Oct. 28, Miami Dolphins’ offensive lineman Jonathan Martin unexpectedly left the team. Normally, this departure would have gone without a single person batting an eye, as numerous players get released from NFL teams, it is almost typical. Yet the reason as to why Martin left the Dolphins has not only been capturing much media attention, but has brought the NFL into question once again. From the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, to Aaron Hernandez’s arrest and murder charges, and of course the rising occurrence of concussions within the sport, has America’s most beloved sport, become the most morally corrupt?

Getting back to the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito situation, the story seems very sketchy to say the least. Martin, who had been with the team for only a year and a half, had claimed to be the victim of bullying and excessive hazing from his teammates. Incognito is said to be responsible for a majority of these actions. Incognito is a nine year veteran of the NFL, previously playing for the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills, who has had a career plagued with controversies regarding his actions both on and off the gridiron. The situation between the two has been highlighted by reports that Incognito was using vulgar, explicit, and racial language toward Martin and his family. Such language has been expressed throughout various text messages and voicemails and, as a direct result of the incident, the NFL has suspended Incognito indefinitely, despite his televised apology. As for Martin, he reportedly checked into a Miami hospital to be treated for emotional distress.

In a text message, Martin had clarified to Incognito that “the culture around football and the locker room” had gotten to him, not Incognito or his teammates. So what exactly did Martin mean when he said the “culture around football” had gotten to him? Is there another, more brutal, maybe even malicious side of football we do not see on camera? Even if this is the case, the NFL is not accepting of these actions whatsoever, as it takes immediate action towards those who have demonstrated unethical actions numerous times. Just ask Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, who had been suspended indefinitely for running a “pay for performance” program that worked similarly to a bounty system. Or even ask James Harrison, whom the NFL has repeatedly fined for illegal hits and even caused concussions to opposing players.

Maybe it’s not the NFL who is to blame as much as it is the teams and their front office. As part of the Incognito/Martin situation, it was said that the Dolphins’ coaching staff had instructed Incognito to help “toughen up” Martin. Despite this demand being taken too far by Incognito, it seems as if no one saw anything wrong with his actions. Earlier this summer, the New England Patriots’ front office was questioned when its tight end, Aaron Hernandez, was arrested for the possible murder of his friend, Odin Lloyd. Questions toward the Patriots came about as more stories of Hernandez’s cases of violence surfaced, dating back to his days at the University of Florida. It was revealed that the Patriots’ front office was aware of these cases prior to ever drafting Hernandez, yet still made the decision to draft him. Not all teams will stand for attitudes or actions like this in their players, however, and will take action of their own to prove their point. For example, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys has a history of anger issues and as a result the team made it mandatory for him to receive anger management treatment or else they would cut ties with him.

That “culture around football” must be indicative of how competitive these athletes must be beyond the gridiron. Guys like Incognito, Hernandez, Williams, and Harrison are examples of those who change the culture of football negatively, but there are also heroes like Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers who tip the culture back to the positive end. These guys are all great competitors as well, but the latter know how to leave it on the field. Once off the field, they are just average Joes like you and I, only with much more money. No matter how bizarre, inhumane, and/or unethical actions in football are most of the nation will continue to tune in every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday for 17 weeks to watch it. Does this mean that we, the fans, are to blame for finding entertainment in this? Not necessarily. We are just the faithful spectators who love watching men kill themselves over a ball made out of pigskin. Why? Because at the end of the day, the “culture around football” will always reign supreme. Incognito and all.