Nothing black and white in locker room
First, Martin was a victim and Incognito was a bully. Now, teammates say they were best friends. Incognito is a respected teammate and Martin is portrayed as a head case and an outcast who has turned on his team.
At the onset, Incognito was an insensitive racist. But not only are teammates now denying that description, they're saying Incognito is more black than Martin, according to The Miami Herald.
In fact, he's apparently considered an "honorary" black man in the locker room.
"Richie is honorary," one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told the Herald's Armando Salguero. "I don't expect you to understand because you're not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It's about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you've experienced. A lot of things."
Martin, who's biracial, attended Stanford and is the son of two lawyers. FOX Sports' Coy Wire, who also played at Stanford, wrote this week of the challenges "smart guys" can face in the NFL culture.
“There is a culture in the NFL that is hard to break into. If you don’t fit into the mold, and the culture in the locker room, you won’t last," another former NFL player who went to Stanford told Wire. "You do get a lot of respect [being from Stanford] because of your perceived intelligence, but you have to overcome a stigma that you may not be tough enough. Sometimes, in a gladiator sport like football, intelligence can be perceived as being soft.”
That's been the rap on Martin, according to The Herald and other sources. FOX Sports NFL Insider Mike Garafolo reported that Dolphins coaches were aware of Incognito's hazing of Martin and hoped it would "toughen him up."
Offensive lineman John Jerry said he has never heard Incognito use the N-word around him and even if he did, would have “laughed it off.” As far as Incognito being a racist, Jerry said, “He’s a guy I’m with more than my own family, so I know what type of guy he is, personally.”
Dolphins players "all say they like Jonathan," Salguero said on ESPN. "They all say they love Richie."
Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, appearing on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday, said Incognito called him the N-word during a game in 2006. Sapp said “it’s a term of endearment where I come from.”
Stephen A. Smith, on ESPN's "First Take," said the perception that Martin is less black than any of his teammates because of personality differences "is the most alarming aspect of this fiasco."
FOX Sports' Jen Engel writes that the blame lies in the culture around the team: "You want to talk about what is wrong with the Miami Dolphins? It is not simply Incognito. It is a coach in Joe Philbin who did not bother to keep his finger on the pulse of his team. It is a general manager in Jeff Ireland who watched one of his players walk away from an NFL job with NFL checks and did not start asking the right questions about why until way too late. It is the rest of the locker room who stood idly by and let Martin be bullied."
The league is investigating the relationship Incognito had with Martin, who left the team last week because of emotional issues. Incognito was suspended indefinitely by coach Joe Philbin for his treatment of Martin.
"As the representative organization of all players, the NFLPA will insist on a fair investigation for all involved," the union said in a statement Tuesday that included no condemnation of Incognito's conduct.
Instead, the union said accountability rested with the Dolphins.
"We expect that the NFL and its clubs create a safe and professional workplace for all players, and that owners, executives, coaches and players should set the best standards and examples," the union said. "It is the duty of this union to hold the clubs ... accountable for safety and professionalism in the workplace. ... We will continue to remain in contact with the impacted players, their representatives and player leadership."
Philbin said he was unaware of any harassment between the players until after Martin left the team.
"If the (NFL) review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is," Philbin said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.