Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito has been at the epicenter of a firestorm that involves racial implications, as well as hazing and bullying allegations from his own teammate, Jonathan Martin, who left the team on Oct. 28.
I sat down exclusively with Incognito on Saturday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in his first extended interview to address the truths and the mistruths of everything that’s been reported.
You’ve seen the short version that aired on FOX NFL Sunday, and the extended 10-minute version that aired on FOX Sports Live. But we still haven’t shown you everything. Here now is the full transcript from the entire conversation, some of which is shown in the "unseen footage" video at right.
Glazer: Full disclosure, I’ve known you, have been friendly with you for about five years. A few years ago, trained you in my mixed martial arts program. But even with that said, there are certain things that have come out in this whole situation that are difficult for me to grasp, difficult for everyone to grasp, so we’re going to cover all that. But I want to start with October 28th — the day that your teammate Jonathan Martin walked out. It’s changed several people’s lives. It may have changed the culture inside NFL locker rooms. Take me inside that day. What happened that day?
Incognito: The day of the incident, we had a tough loss to the Patriots. We were coming back on a short week. We were playing the Bengals the next week. It seemed like a normal day. We’re in the lunch room about 4:00 getting ready to go out to practice, and we decided we were going to pull a prank on Jonathan. We’ve done this prank many times before, Jonathan has been in on this prank when we’ve done it to other offensive linemen and basically the prank is we had 12, 13 offensive linemen sitting at the offensive line table, we have our special table in the lunchroom we eat at everyday and there was one seat open at the end of the table. And I told the guys, listen, when J-Mart sits down, we’re all going to grab our trays, we’re going to go put them away and we’re going to leave him there sitting by himself. Like I’ve said, we’ve done this many times before. So Jon comes, he sits down, we all get up we grab our trays, we’re taking off, we’re all laughing and carrying on and Jon grabs his plate of food, chucks it on the floor, runs in the locker room, grabs his keys and he’s gone.
Glazer: We haven’t heard from Jonathan Martin, but we have heard from attorney David Cornwell, who has been hired to advise the family, where he says Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. And goes on to say, among other things, Jonathan endured a malicious, physical attack on him by a teammate and daily vulgar comments. Again, you’ve talked about the traditional locker room hazing. He is claiming it went far beyond that.
Incognito: I can’t wrap my head around that because I’ve been there since Day One and, like I’ve said, nothing is normal in a locker room. In traditional hazing, there is nothing malicious done with hazing.
Glazer: There is another report out there also that — and again, it’s part of what went on behind the scenes there — that your coaches ordered you to ‘toughen Jonathan Martin up.’ True or false?
Incognito: I’m here to talk about my relationship with Jon. There’s an NFL investigation that will get to the bottom of all that. This is about me and Jon. This is about me caring for this guy and me loving this guy like a brother.
Glazer: The other thing that has come out about this is about a trip to Las Vegas where supposedly Jonathan was ordered to pay $15,000 for a trip he did not take. Is that accurate?
Incognito: That’s not accurate. We take an offensive line trip annually every year to Las Vegas. Jonathan missed his rookie year. We went, he played his rookie year, he didn’t join us on the trip so this whole offseason we were joking around and we were saying, ‘You know what, Jon, you’re going to pay a fine for that. You’re going to have to pay a big fine for missing your rookie trip to Las Vegas.’ It was a big joke and it kind of shifted and kind of took form. Once the season started getting closer, we started riding him more and more about this trip and about this fine. So we have a fine code in the O-line room where we fine each other for all sorts of silly stuff — falling down on tape, for all sorts of little things — and we kept riding Jon to pay a $10,000 fine for missing his trip. Most of it was joking …
Glazer: So wait, you said $10,000. It was reported that it was $15,000, so it’s not.
Incognito: It was a $10,000 fine. We were serious about it, but we were joking and we had talked amongst ourselves, like we’re not really going to make him pay this. He asked us, ‘Hey, do I have to pay this $10,000 fine?’ And flippantly we were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, you’ve got to pay it.’ He shows up with a check on the plane for $10,000 and says, ‘Here’s my fine money. I’m in. Let’s go.’ And now what this fine money does is, this finances our next offseason flight to Vegas. Basically, he was throwing it in the pot willingly.
Glazer: It was reported for $15,000 for a trip that he didn’t take. So you’re saying it’s for the next trip he has yet to take.
Incognito: All this money that goes into that fund, this is going to finance our trip after the 2013 season to Las Vegas.
Glazer: There are a lot of incidents that you have had, and you would think if there was somebody that could have noticed and who would say, ‘Hey, maybe I can take something too far,’ it would be you.
Incognito: Correct. I’ve never shied away about talking about my past. I’ve been a cancer in locker rooms in my past. I have been selfish. I haven’t been a good teammate. And from where I started to where I am now is a world of difference. And I’ve had plenty of bumps along the road. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Mistakes I’ve learned from, mistakes that have changed me, mistakes that have made me realize I need to get help. I’ve sought counseling; I’ve made changes in my personal life; I’ve done the steps necessary to grow. And I understand that this isn’t final. I’m not perfect and I’m still growing and it makes me realize now and take a step back and look at my actions, maybe I need to change my ways again.
Glazer: But during that time, you were always in the middle of it. And after you’re saying that all the work you’ve done, you’re in the middle of it once again. Not just in the middle of it — in the middle of whether there’s bullying, the N-word. Do you almost feel like, you can’t get out of your own way?
Incognito: Yes and no. Every time a situation arises, every time I’m faced with adversity, people want to drag me right back into that old mold. I get that. This is a deal where I was a close friend with Jonathan and we’re brothers, we’re teammates, and this kind of caught me off guard, kind of caught me by surprise. If I would’ve known that this was hurting Jon … we spend plenty of time one-on-one outside of football. If Jon would’ve came to me once, or if one of our other teammates would’ve come to me once and said, ‘Listen, lay off Jon. He’s had enough of it. It’s been too much,’ I would’ve been the first person not only to change myself, but also to change the people around me. You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room, who had Jonathan Martin’s back the absolute most, and they will undoubtedly tell you me. Jon never showed signs that football was getting to him; the locker room was getting to him.
Glazer: You’re saying you don’t know what led to this. Teammates are saying we don’t know. His side has clearly said, we do know. And there’s bullying involved. There was a voice message left and I’m going to read it to you. You did leave this voice message?
Incognito: Yes, I did leave this voice message.
Glazer: And it’s, ‘Hey, what’s up, you half N-word piece of blank. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. Want to blank in your blank mouth. I’m going to slap your blank mouth. Going to slap your real mother across the face. (Laughter) You’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.’ You hear that, going back to that now, do you look at that and say, ‘I left that for Jonathan Martin?’
Incognito: When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come up across the screen, I’m embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate, it’s vulgar. It’s, it’s not right. When the words are put in the context I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised but people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another. For instance, the week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone: ‘I will murder your whole f—ing family.’ Now did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit.
Glazer: So he left that text to you?
Incognito: He texted me that. I didn’t think he was going to kill my family. I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. It was coming from a teammate. That puts in context how we communicate with one another.
Glazer: But there’s one thing in saying that and another thing with a white man using the N-word. How do you expect anybody in America to believe you’re not a racist?
Incognito: I’m not a racist. To judge me by that one word is wrong. In no way, shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word even if it’s friend to friend on a voicemail.
Glazer: How much in today’s locker room is it thrown around by African-Americans and white players?
Incognito: It’s thrown around a lot. It’s a word that I’ve heard Jon use a lot. I’m not saying it’s right for when I did it in the voicemail, but there’s a lot of colorful words thrown around in the locker room that we don’t use in everyday life. The fact of the matter remains though that that voicemail was left on a private voicemail for my friend and it was a joke.
Glazer: Right, wrong or indifferent, because of all this, you’ve become the face of bullying in America. Somebody thinks of a bully, they think of Richie Incognito.
Incognito: This isn’t an issue about bullying. This is an issue about mine and Jon’s relationship where I’ve taken stuff too far and I didn’t know it was hurting him.
Glazer: Did Jonathan Martin overreact? Or Jonathan was hurting that much?
Incognito: I can’t sit here and tell you who overreacted and who did what. I can just sit here and be accountable for my actions. And my actions were coming from a place of love. No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that’s how we communicate, that’s how our friendship was, and those are the facts and that’s what I’m accountable for.
Glazer: You’re telling me there weren’t any signs going into that?
Incognito: As the leader, and as his best friend on that team, that’s what has me miffed — how I missed this. And I never saw it. I never saw it coming.
Glazer: There are so many subplots in this. How much has come out where you’ve you looked at it and said, ‘That’s not even close’?
Incognito: I think the whole thing I’ve been sitting there saying, ‘That’s not even close.’ It sounds terrible. When it’s on the screen, it sounds like I’m a racist pig. It sounds like I’m a meathead. It sounds a lot of things that it’s not.
Glazer: You, obviously, have had a very checkered history, from way back in college, all the way up to recently last year with the incident at the golf course. You’re sitting up here saying, ‘Hey, I’m a good guy.’ It’s difficult I think for America to grasp that when all they see are the episodes.
Incognito: No question and if you go by just the knucklehead stuff I’ve pulled in the past, you’re sitting in your home and you’re thinking, this guy is a loose cannon, this guy is a terrible person, this guy is a racist, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If I was a racist, and I was bullying Jon Martin, when the press went in there and asked them questions, that locker room would’ve said, listen, we saw this, we saw that. I’m proud of my guys for having my back and telling the truth but the fact of the matter is, when Jon left the team on Monday, we played a game on Thursday, I spoke with Jon on Friday.
Glazer: You spoke with him?
Incognito: I texted with him. I spoke to him through text message. And he texted me and said, ‘I don’t blame you guys, I blame some stuff in the locker room, I blame the culture. I blame what was going on around me.’ And when all this stuff got going and swirling, and bullying got attached to it, and my name got attached to it, I just texted him as a friend and was like, ‘What’s up with this, man?’ And he said, ‘It’s not coming from me. I haven’t said anything to anybody.’
Glazer: Are these texts you’d be willing to share?
Incognito: No question. After this interview, I’ll give you my phone and we’ll walk through all of these texts. I will show you the framework of a friendship.
Glazer: Could Jonathan Martin go back and be accepted in that locker room?
Incognito: He could. I could accept Jon back there. How ever many weeks ago that this happened, it’s been such a whirlwind, I’ve been swept up in this thing, a day before this happened, he’s my best friend and my teammate. Now that all this stuff has come out, I’d be more than willing to accept him back into our locker room with open arms. And I think our guys would be too.
Glazer: If Jonathan Martin was sitting right there next to you, what would you say to him?
Incognito: I think, honestly, I think I’d give him a big hug right now because we’ve been through so much and I’d just be like, ‘Dude, what’s going on? Why didn’t you come to me?’ If he were to say, ‘Listen, you took it way too far. You hurt me.’ … You know, I would just apologize and explain to him exactly what I explained to you, and I’d apologize to his family. They took it as malicious. I never meant it that way.