When it was more than a game: The Dolphins scandal and The Ali Summit of 1967

Posted on November 7, 2013

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The layers and levels behind the Miami Dolphins bullying/hazing/disrespect debacle continues to play out. For anyone not familiar with this sad saga (and it is a saga, because something like this takes time to grow roots in an organization) what probably started as a rite of passage has turned into something more sinister and ugly, year after year.

As more players from other teams and also ex-players speak out, a picture is starting to emerge which may end up focusing not just the NFL’s policies, but current accepted norms in American society.

It’s also a cautionary tale for any other organization, because something like this is not limited to the game of football. It’s not an isolated event, it’s a climate that was allowed to grow until the breaking point came last week. Sadly, a number of African American players are in the thick of it, sticking to a code of honor regarding those who snitch.

When interviewed, player after player in the Miami Dolphins locker room spoke of keeping their problems “in-house” (though not all, I must stress that).

The old-skol phrase was “don’t put your business in the street.” But the intent is the same. Keep quiet, no matter what. Apparently Richie Incognito didn’t get the memo, as his behavior, and his words, at least on this tape obtained by TMZ speaks for itself:

 

“Mike Pouncey, Nigga! Fuck this shit!” can be heard as soon as the tape begins:

 

 

 

 

If I’m not mistaken, this wasn’t done in the locker room, but a public place.  So much for keeping their behavior “in-house”.

 

 

I’m a big football fan and I have been since I was a child. What I recall, was a time that young black athletes came together to listen as Muhammad Ali explained why he could not fight in the Vietnam War.

 

In 1967, young black athletes show solidarity behind Muhammad Ali

In 1967, young black athletes show solidarity behind Muhammad Ali.
Front row: Bill Russell, Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor). Back row: Mayor Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter and John Wooten.

 

 

According to this article by Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer, Jim Brown explained the purpose of the summit in an excerpt from an ESPN article:

That was a situation that had to be addressed. I was the president of the Black Economic Union, John Wooten was my executive director. I called John from London and told him to contact all of the top black athletes from around the country and have them meet Ali in Cleveland so we could discuss his situation with the draft. They all showed up and we had about a three-hour meeting with him [Ali] in the back room of my office in Cleveland. [We] realized that he was very sincere in his position and that because of his religion, he was not going to go into the Army and we backed him. … It was a very wonderful thing to have these young players not worry about risking their careers, but getting the right information from the horse’s mouth so that they could make judgment on this man’s action.

 

Link: http://www.cleveland.com/ohio-sports-blog/index.ssf/2010/06/nba_free_agent_summit_reminds_us_of_1967.html

 

 

For more on the Ali Summit, see these articles

http://espn.go.com/page2/s/wiley/021220.html

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2743548

 

 

When almost to a man, some players in Miami inferred that somehow the culture in their locker room/relationship with each other was something the average fan wouldn’t understand, I have to disagree. I’ve seen and heard this kind of talk before, it’s origins imho from a mash of street culture that has permeated not just sports, but educational institutions, entertainment and other venues.

It’s sad that while it didn’t occur in this case, at least during the 1960s black athletes got together to show the world they could listen to Ali going against the Vietnam War without resorting to calling his manhood into question. There’s a social consciousness that’s sorely missing from the public statements made by some of the Miami players.

Taking out the obscene voice mail to Jonathan Martin, how does “Mike Pouncey, Nigga!” instill brotherly love? Exactly what would any of these players tell a Pop Warner Pee Wee football team regarding the behavior in their locker room, where for years, African Americans fought and died for the right to be called “men” and not “Nigga” and yet some of these players are condoning it, and more?

 

I AM A MAN. The march meant to have America recognize that fact. Note the lone brave white male willing to march among black men.

I AM A MAN. The march meant to have America recognize that fact. Note the lone brave white male willing to march among black men.

 

 

And why wouldn’t someone warn Incognito that not everyone gets all warm and fuzzy when hearing the word “Nigga” aimed at either themselves or another black person, even in jest?

 

Children arrested while protesting segregation. Young males and females who still have a prison record to this day, as a badge of honor for standing up against inequality.

Children arrested while protesting segregation. Young males and females who still have a prison record to this day, as a badge of honor for standing up against inequality.

 

 

 

Mind you, these are players who’ve graduated from college, just like Jonathan Martin. From where I sit, they appear more like Jonathan Martin than the individuals they seem to want to pretend they are. These guys aren’t hardened thugs, no matter how many tattoos and drunken tirades they go on.

 

And sadly, those who harbor dreams of throwing away a good paying career in order to play a thug, quickly find out that prisons are the new plantations.

 

“Real men” come in every shape, size and demeanor. But much like whatever the hell a “real woman” is supposed to be, I have no idea what the bizarre definitions coming out this week of what a “real man” should do even applies in an age where people take their anger out on others via mental and physical intimidation, and using weapons like their fists and guns and even bombs.

The prison/gang mentality has felled many a male, both black and white. If an individual can’t keep the line between their actions in the locker room and the real world separate, then once their football career is over, God Help Them.  

For another perspective on bestowing “honorary blackness” on a non-minority, see this post:

https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/bestowing-honorary-blackness-has-its-roots-in-segregation/

 

 

 

There’s an “insider” article by a former teammate of both Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Unfortunately, the article validates much of what Martin alleges imho, instead of letting Incognito off the hook, as well as others on the team who may have participated in the systematic bullying of one of their own.

 

Excerpt:

” . . . when Martin wasn’t showing effort, Richie would give him a lot of crap. He was a leader on the team, and he would get in your face if you were unprepared or playing poorly. The crap he would give Martin was no more than he gave anyone else, including me. Other players said the same things Incognito said to Martin, so you’d need to suspend the whole team if you suspend Incognito.

 

Link: http://mmqb.si.com/2013/11/07/richie-incognito-jonathan-martin-dolphins-lydon-murtha/

 

 

 

Somehow I just can’t get that TMZ video out of my head of a drunken Incognito fairly screaming “Mike Pouncey, Nigga! Fuck This Shit!”

Yes, that’s a real leader for you. And to think, Mike Pouncey spoke up for Incognito. I shudder to think how deep Pouncey’s involvement in all of this vicious belittling/hazing/bullying scandal is. If there was a not so secret group that ran roughshod over the offensive line, it’s just a matter of time before it all comes out.

 

This article by Jason Whitlock of ESPN.com is a must-read, and breaks down much better than anyone I’ve read so far on what Martin’s working conditions must have been like:

 

Martin walked into twisted world

He confronted an unrelenting, prison yard mentality in the Miami locker room

by Jason Whitlock, ESPN.com

Mass incarceration has turned segments of Black America so upside down that a tatted-up, N-word-tossing white goon is more respected and accepted than a soft-spoken, highly intelligent black Stanford graduate.

According to a story in the Miami Herald, black Dolphins players granted Richie Incognito “honorary” status as a black man while feeling little connection to Jonathan Martin.

Welcome to Incarceration Nation, where the mindset of the Miami Dolphins‘ locker room mirrors the mentality of a maximum-security prison yard and where a wide swath of America believes the nonviolent intellectual needs to adopt the tactics of the barbarian.

 

Read the entire riveting and on point opinion piece here:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9941696/jonathan-martin-walked-twisted-world-led-incognito

 

 

to be continued . . .

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