Breaking Down the Richie Incognito Situation

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 10 – ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown with Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Keyshawn Johnson previewed today’s NFL games. The program focused extensively on the issue of bullying and locker room culture in the NFL – following the Dolphins suspension of Richie Incognito for alleged bullying his teammate Jonathan Martin. Highlights:

On Miami Dolphins locker room mess …

Jackson: “Let’s talk about what we know. Last year, May 18, about 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon, at a Dolphins’ sponsored golf outing, a female volunteer – and we’ve all been to these kinds of events – was approached by Richie Incognito with a gold club. He molested this young female volunteer inappropriately, as you can, with a golf club. I want our viewers to imagine that – your sister, your daughter. I have.

“He then knocked her glasses off her head and poured water over as a parting shot. She wanted an apology. He would not give her one. Nat Moore, former receiver now with the Dolphins organization, apologized for the organization and promised that something would be done. She didn’t think it would. She filed a police report, which is why we know about it.

“He later was then put on the leadership council after she signed a non-disclosure agreement which indicates or suggests that she got paid to stay quiet about what he did. So let’s fast-forward to this week, we have abuse, we have the cover in the locker room, and in this last instance, he was rewarded.

“I would put to you, as we fast-forward one more week, what is causing the panic in that locker room is that they realize that Jonathan Martin is documenting everything that they did for a year and half to him and they are already in a mode of trying to protect, not only Richie Incognito, but themselves as well.”

Johnson: “When you look at what is going on within the Dolphins organization, it is not just about Richie Incognito, it’s just not about Jonathan Martin, it is about the organization as a whole – from the top down. You have a general manager in Jeff Ireland who brings in free agents, who brings in players. In a locker room setting, everybody has to co-exist. Or you at least have to know what personalities go together … Obviously, the Dolphins didn’t do their homework.”

Ditka: “If I was the coach, I’ll not have either Incognito, the bully, or the baby, Martin, on my team. That’s me. Does that make me right? No. It makes me, me. I will stand up for that.”

Carter: “This is an odd situation. The players are not comfortable with what happened in Miami throughout the league. But as far as the league is concerned, the NFL locker room is a workplace … When you drive through the gates, give them your ID, you are in an active workplace. So all these ideas that in the locker room, you can do this, that is not true. In the NFL locker room, you are not allowed to act like an animal and a savage.”

Berman: “The problem is we have a victim. Why is it that the victim is looked at, as scornful at, as the perpetrator? … We have issues of racism, bullying, and here comes a word, extortion, fear of retribution. Not all of them are against the U.S. law, but certainly, a lot of them are. Why is it being covered up? Because, are others involved? Or are they afraid of being bullied themselves?”

Jackson: “The locker room went to great lengths in Miami to shift this conversation from a guy being bullied to a guy being a coward. As I watched it, it was so upsetting because they are trying to hold Jonathan Martin equally culpable to what was done to him. ‘It was done to him because we had to do it – we needed to toughen this guy up.’ As opposed to the fact that this intelligent young man whose parents are third generation Harvard graduates, ‘he is not quite as ‘Black’ as is Richie Incognito.’ This is insane. And it is going to get more insane by next week when this man tells what was done to him for a year and half.”

On the NFL locker room culture …

Following Greg Garber’s feature on the “culture of the NFL locker room,” the Countdown panel discussed the dos and don’ts in the locker room:

Carter: “The general public is starting to get the perception that in the NFL locker room, you are free to do whatever you want. This is not typical of what happens in NFL locker rooms … I talked to NFL players this week. What is going on in Miami is extraordinary, it is nothing normal.”

Jackson: “This is atypical. This situation exists here with the Miami Dolphins. I don’t believe for a second that other locker rooms are allowing players to show the kind of disrespect that was shown here for Jonathan Martin. But to a certain extent, it is going to become a moot point. What the Dolphins have kind of inadvertently done here is drawing so much focus on the locker room that there are going to be rules in place now. There’s going to be rules of how much you can demand of a rookie. You can’t have a guy give you $30,000 to go take a trip that he’s not on. Go spend $15,000 on a meal. It is ridiculous, you get paid. Richie Incognito makes millions of dollars. Why would he make Ryan Tannehill go and get him a Jet Ski? … Like most circumstances, something good is going to come from this eventually.”

Ditka: “This is a weird thing that happened here and the guy responded a little different than most other people would have. We’ve got a problem.”

On NFL players using the N***** word in the locker room …

Carter: “I’ve been very, very fortunate. I worked in the National Football League. I worked at HBO. And I’ve been working at ESPN. I made all my money at these big companies – corporate America. The NFL is a workplace, just like anywhere else. I made millions and millions of dollars, and at no point have I had a relationship with anybody along the way that has done anything significant enough for me that I would allow them to call me that … In all locker rooms, they need to change that culture and change it now.”

Former coaches Mike Ditka (Bears & Saints) and Herm Edwards (Jets & Chiefs) discuss the pressures of being a head coach in the National Football League …

Ditka:  “Work. Discipline – you have to be there, you have to get your team ready each week. You have to be a leader. You have to be somebody who can motivate your team … There are so many hours of film work that goes in, but you can’t spend nights in your office and be prepared to organize your club the next day. People don’t understand how hard this job is. All you see is the glamor on Sunday, you don’t see the sweat that goes on during the week.”

Edwards: “Your job is to fix things … Most people think it is all about the season. That’s one part of it. Then, there’s the off-season. This calendar is stretching these guys so far now that you are constantly feeling like you are barraged with information that you always feel like you are getting something fixed.”

Reaction to News Tony Dorsett has early signs of CTE …

Following this week’s news that Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett has been diagnosed with early signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Countdown’s Mike Ditka and Tom Jackson discussed the ailment and its impact on former NFL players …

Ditka: “Football is a violent sport. When heads hit, things happen. When the brain bleeds, you’ve got a problem. That’s what is happening.”

Jackson: “I’ve got to speak personally here. Do I get depressed? Yes. What part of it plays out because of my activities in the NFL? I don’t know. My legs go numb. They did this week about six times. You’ve (Chris Berman) seen it and you’ve helped me with it. There are times that I cannot walk. The artificial hip, the artificial left knee, the pain in the shoulder, all of those things are part of what I did. I will not trade a second of it. I loved what I did in the National Football League. But for me, and many others like me, payment is going to come due. He is 59, Tony Dorsett, I am 62. Payment is coming due for our experiences in the National Football League.”

Ditka: “I think I’m fine, I don’t know. I get forgetful at times. Tom (Jackson) said it, ‘I wouldn’t give anything up for what I had.’ If this is what is going to happen to me in the end of my life, fine. My enjoyment I got competing on the football field playing for the Bears and the Cowboys was the ultimate to me.”