The Miami Dolphins indefinitely suspended Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team as they investigate an incident of alleged harassment involving fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
Incognito asked Martin to contribute last summer to an unofficial team trip to Las Vegas, and in April left him an expletive-filled voice message that contained a racial slur, according to ESPN. Martin, who did not go with his teammates to Las Vegas, gave Incognito $15,000, the report said, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation.
David Dunn, Incognito’s agent, didn’t immediately return an e-mail or telephone message left at his office seeking comment.
Martin’s father, Gus, an acting associate dean and professor of criminal justice administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills, said in a telephone interview that the family wouldn’t comment until after a National Football League investigation and that all inquiries are being handled by his son’s agent, Kenneth Zuckerman. Zuckerman did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said today that the team asked the NFL yesterday to conduct a review of alleged misconduct in its locker room. Martin left the team on Oct. 28 after an incident in the team dining area, Philbin said.
“As the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, I am in charge of the workplace atmosphere,” Philbin told reporters. “If the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that it is.”
Dolphins rookies have also been pressured into paying for social outings for older players, the Miami Herald reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the situation. The practice, which included handing younger players the bill on a $30,000 team dinner, is a financial burden and is affecting locker room chemistry, the newspaper said. The NFL rookie minimum salary is about $405,000.
The NFL and the Dolphins have heard the voice message in which Incognito used a racial epithet, ESPN said. There are also text messages that contain derogatory terms referring to sexual orientation, according to the network.
“A toxic locker room environment is when those in perceived power kind of exert that power through intimidating, degrading and disrespecting those around them,” former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said today on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “And it sounds like that’s what’s happened in Miami.”
Philbin said he spoke with Martin the evening the player left the team, and was in contact throughout the week with Martin and his family. The coach said the team first heard of possible allegations of misconduct yesterday morning, after being contacted by one of Martin’s representatives. That’s when the team reached out to the NFL, according to Philbin.
“The NFL is going to conduct a review of the workplace,” the coach said. “It’s going to be comprehensive, it’s going to be objective, and we as an organization are going to give our full cooperation.”
After contacting the NFL, the Dolphins issued a statement yesterday regarding the suspension for the 30-year-old Incognito, a nine-year NFL veteran who started the team’s first eight games.
“We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time,” the team said.
Martin, 24, is in his second season with the Dolphins after being taken in the second round of the 2012 draft.
“Our primary concern for Jonathan is his overall health and well-being,” the Dolphins said yesterday in a statement.
League spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail that the NFL has been in contact with the team since last week and will conduct a thorough review. He declined to comment on any possible violations of league policy.
Former NFL coach Brian Billick, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and is now an analyst for Fox, said that while every team has traditions for rookies, the Dolphins’ handling of Martin’s case has been “a mess.”
“Every team has something like this, like you have to bring the doughnuts in this week,” Billick told ESPN Radio. “It’s part of the atmosphere in the locker room but you have to stay on top of it.”