For the past week, Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito has been at the epicenter of a firestorm that involves racial implications, and hazing and bullying allegations from his own teammate, Jonathan Martin, who left the team on Oct. 28.
Martin’s attorney, David Cornwell, released a statement Thursday that alleges that Martin endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker-room hazing. Cornwell also stated that, beyond the well-publicized voicemail with its racial epithet, his client “endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments. The facts are not in dispute.”
Incognito responded to the controversy Sunday, in a sit-down interview with FOX Sports that was taped Saturday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. It is Incognito’s first extended interview since the story broke. The interview first aired on NFL FOX Sunday, but an extended version aired Sunday night on FOX Sports Live.
You can see that extended interview in the video above and read the transcript below.
In the interview, Incognito asserts that he’s not a racist, insists that his relationship with Martin was not as fractured as it may seem and says that much of what has been reported is misleading.
Incognito also turned over his phone records, which showed 1,142 texts between him and Martin in the past year. Martin sent these two texts to Incognito three days after he left the team:
"Wassup man? The world’s gone crazy lol I’m good tho congrats on the win"
"Yeah I’m good man. It’s insane bro but just know I don’t blame you guys at all it’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."
Here now, highlights of the interview:
Incognito: You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most. And they will undoubtedly tell you, me.
Incognito: Jon never showed signs that football was getting to him, um, the locker room was getting to him.
Glazer: You’re saying you don’t know what led to this. Your teammates are saying, ‘We don’t know.’ His side has clearly said, ‘We do know.’ OK, and there’s bullying involved. There was a voice message left. 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 is, 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.
Glazer: But there’s one thing of saying that, another thing with a white man using the N-word. How do you tell America, how do you expect anybody in America to believe you’re not a racist?
Incognito: I’m not a racist. And 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. I regret that.
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. Not saying it’s right for when I did it in the voicemail, but there’s a lot of colorful words thrown around 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. Someone thinks of a bully, they think of Richie Incognito.
Incognito: This isn’t an issue about bullying. This is an issue of 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 was Jonathan hurting that much?
Incognito: I can’t sit here and tell you who overreacted, 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 wasn’t any signs going into that?
Incognito: As the leader, as his best friend on the team, that’s what has me miffed — how I missed this. I never saw it. I never saw it coming.
Glazer: There’s so many subplots in this. How much has come out, where you looked at it and said … ‘That’s not even close’?
Incognito: I think the whole thing, I’ve been sitting here saying, ‘That’s not even close.’ It sounds terrible. It sounds, 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. And I want to clear the air just by saying I’m a good person.
Glazer: You obviously have had a very checkered history. From way back in college all the way up to recently with last year with the incident at the golf course. You’re sitting up here and saying, ‘Hey, I’m a good guy.’ It’s difficult for us, as America, to grasp that when all they see are the episodes.
Incognito: Right, no question. And if you go by just all the knucklehead stuff I’ve pulled in the past, done in my 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 have 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 text messaged, I spoke with 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, 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?’ He said, ‘It’s not coming from me. I haven’t said anything to anybody.’ And I’m like, ‘OK.’
Glazer: Would these be texts you would be willing to share?
Incognito: No question. I’ll give you, after this interview, I’ll give you my phone. And we’ll walk through all these texts, and I will show you the framework of a friendship.
Glazer: If Jonathan Martin was sitting right here 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.