Jonathan Martin Is Not A Victim. Just Read The Texts
By Brett Spielberg
A few short months ago, Jonathan Martin had become the face of everyone ever bullied in America. He was chastised for his race, his youth, his calm demeanor, his top-tier education and, most of all, for being too soft in a culture that's all about being the toughest guy on the field.
Now, with more than 1000 texts between Martin and his frenemy Richie Incognito made public, it's looking more like Martin isn't clearly the victim as some originally presumed. From womanizing to possible illegal drug use, Martin and Incognito discuss many things that wouldn't make Roger Goodell happy.
While Martin was on the offensive, alleging over-the-top racism and bullying that crossed the line between teammates, his texts don't seem to tell that story. Sure, Incognito said many things that are worth shaking your head over. So did Martin, who was most definitely not a helpless victim, in the context of their texts to each other.
That Vegas trip he cried extortion about happened last year and was one of the first texts published this week. Martin definitely had a problem paying six thousand dollars for a "[prostitute] party," so he didn't go on the trip and didn't pay it. Was it wrong of Incognito to "ask" Martin to foot the bill? Sure, but Martin has free will and made the decision not to pay it. It didn't seem to get in the way of his offseason routine, which Incognito was very interested in and professional in discussing.
There were definitely some serious racist remarks and quips about Martin's sister, playing level, demeanor, and the like. But Martin didn't pull any punches either. And he seemed to be interested in hanging out with Incognito much more than the typical victim likes spending time with their bully.
When he left the team and avoided Incognito's messages for a few days, he eventually responded by assuring him he had no qualms with him or anyone in that locker room. It was the culture he had a problem with, and Incognito didn't disagree with him. But when Incognito sent him the ESPN headline with Incognito named in the lede as the most evil person in the world for that news cycle, Martin flat-out denied he was involved.
Incognito knew Martin's agent leaked information, but apparently Martin didn't?
This is where I lose all trust in Martin's story. Either A) he lied to his teammate and he did know about it or B) his agent did this on his own.
If his agent did this, why didn't Martin come out and defend Incognito? Why didn't he respond to one of the final texts pleading for help from a friend? Clearly Incognito didn't realize he had crossed a line, and Martin hadn't alerted his teammates that they crossed the line either.
Maybe in between allegedly clubbing, drugging, and womanizing their way through South Florida, Martin was taking endless abuse. Maybe in person, Incognito and others said some much more egregious things than released in those text messages.
But maybe Martin (and his agent) knew that being the worst offensive lineman in football wasn't going to cut it. A story like this would surely end Martin's season and likely his time with the Dolphins, but it would likely assure him a reclamation project-style contract with another team.
After reading every single text message between the two men, this is my take:
Richie Incognito personifies the image of every tough guy that you hated unless you were on the team. He might have been "toughening up" Martin, but really, it looked more like they were brothers in the fraternity of NFL offensive linemen. Being a 300-pound wrecking crew is tough, as evidenced by their back-and-forths discussing the value of putting on weight in the offseason. Incognito said some really nasty things, but he also said some very compassionate things.
Likewise, Martin said some pretty egregious things. Not his stupid meme about killing Incognito's family or the sandpaper condom reference. He, through his texts, admitted to knowing about players doing drugs. If the texts weren't partially redacted, the substances in question would be clarified, as would the players ingesting them. Moreover, up until his last text message, he maintained he had no ill will toward Incognito or anyone on the team. He denied categorically that he was behind the story, but then validated the story to the national media.
Either Martin is a liar to his teammates or to the public. There's no alternative. Regardless if he was bullied or not, Martin is culpable in this. Whether you want to blame his demeanor or his play it's irrelevant. What matters to me is that Martin is not the innocent victim he was portrayed as.
He's just as much a thug as Incognito or Richard Sherman. He might have been bullied, but he most certainly wasn't a helpless victim. He was an offensive lineman in the NFL, and he embarrassed his team, the league and himself with his texts. Incognito meanwhile is simply Incognito. Someone will be happy to put him on their line next year.
He definitely has a better chance of making an impact on a football field than Martin.