Hazing: A Horrible NFL Tradition


A storm of media reports have hit this weekend out of Miami. Jonathan Martin, a second-year player Miami Dolphin, left the team last week with initial reports saying he “needed emotional assistance.” This raised some eyebrows.

Now we know that Jonathan Martin was the victim of extreme bullying from teammate Richie Incognito. Various different reports on Incognito’s behavior are starting to come out, and a voicemail that Incognito left for Martin has been uncovered which has caught everyone’s attention.

“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—— mouth. [I’m going to] slap your f—— mouth. [I’m going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you,”

These were the words left on Martin’s voicemail.

Richie Incongito is a 30 year old,  9-year NFL veteran, saying these things to a 24 year old 2nd year player. These are both adults. What Incognito said to Martin are things nobody should ever say to another human being.

After these reports there are many people coming out about instances between Incognito and other players, members of Dolphin staff, and other personnel.

This type of behavior is nothing new for Incognito. He had been voted the NFL’s dirtiest player in 2009. He has been known to gouge players eyes, punch other players, and make illegal tackles. People that he played with in college still remember him as a bully and talk about how much they hated him. The Indianapolis Colts listed Incognito as a player they would not draft due to character, back when he was coming into the NFL.

In the Miami Dolphins gameday magazine this week, players were asked who is the easiest teammate to scare. Incognito wrote Jonathan Martin.

So how was this type of behavior tolerated until now? Why is Jonathan Martin the only player to really speak up for himself?

Hazing and bullying has become an accepted pastime in the NFL. It is the right of passage. When a new player enters the league, the veterans make him pay his dues.

There have been many instances of hazing that have become know since the very first days of the NFL.

Just last year there was a video of the New York Giants hazing a second-year player, Prince Amukamara. Amukamara was seen being carried by Giants player Jason Pierre Paul, and then being dumped into an ice bath, all while other players watched, laughed, and made fun of him. The most common form of hazing is ridiculous haircuts given to young players. Many players have been tied to goalposts and made fun of. The most ridiculous goalpost story was when Lavelle Hawkins and Cary Williams were tied to a goalpost, and had cake ingredients thrown at them. Chris Colmer, a rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had the wheels of his car removed, and had to go on an “egg hunt” to find each wheel. These are just some of the forms of hazing, along with carrying the older players equipment, buying them meals, and wearing ridiculous outfits.

These sort of things have become “tradition” in the NFL. These players feel like they have to do these things or they will not be respected.

Dez Bryant, a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, was publicly criticized for refusing to carry the shoulder pads of veteran Roy Williams several years ago. Roy Williams was angry about this saying that he had to do these things when he was a rookie, because he didn’t want to be “that guy.” Dez Bryant was ridiculed by the media for being a player that is detrimental to his team.

He didn’t want to be “that guy.” Just that statement alone says a lot. You have to do these things, because you don’t want to be “that guy.” This is something that has to change in the NFL.

I get that the older players had to do these things, and that they think it is only fair for the young players to have to pay the same dues to the older players that they had to do when they were young. This Jonathan Martin incident can be the real changing point in this tradition. This is a time where the rest of the players in the NFL can see how harmful hazing can be. Hopefully players learn a lesson, and cut down on this stuff.

I think this comes back to the coaches. The coaches have to be there to protect all of their players. Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin went on to say that he has children that go to school not too far from the Dolphins stadium. When he drops his children off at school he expects them to be in a safe, comfortable environment, where they can learn, and showcase their skills. He went on to say that it is no different in the NFL. He took ownership for this problem. I respect that. The coaches should make sure that all of the players are respected, and are kept safe. If a coach sees this type of behavior, or even hears about it, he has to make sure he does everything he can to fix the problem.

With the coaches doing their part, and the players learning a lesson and expecting less from younger players, they can make the NFL a much safer place.

Players have enough to worry about safety wise with injuries occurring in game affecting the rest of their lives, but that is a whole other story.

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About Nick Cocchiaro