Hazing: The Incognito Effect

By Dennis Topakov


Miami Dolphins’ offensive lineman Richie Incognito has become the front-man of the most recent hazing and bullying allegations within the NFL. Jonathan Martin, Incognito’s fellow lineman and teammate, is the alleged target of Incognitos’ harassment and decided to terminate himself from the Dolphins organization in response to his former teammate’s actions. Incognito sent Martin text messages, phone calls and left him voicemails using discriminatory language as well as the “N-word” numerous times.

Some of the other Miami Dolphins players were asked about the situation and many had very different reactions than what most people would assume. A few of the players attempted to justify Incognito’s alleged actions and believe hazing in the NFL to be a ritual and, in Martin’s case as a second-year lineman, a rite of passage. Many of the teammates did not reprimand Incognito for his comments and instead focused their attention on Martin, the team’s general manager Jeff Ireland even suggesting Martin simply should have “punched” Incognito for his suspected remarks.

Such a story brings up a very heated question of whether or not hazing should be tolerated at any level or group setting. It has become a rite of passage, especially within the college settings of fraternities and sororities. It is looked at as a necessary evil. This could be because the Stockholm syndrome phenomenon, a condition where the victim in an abusive relationship develops a strong, emotional bond to his or her abuser, is actually supported by people around them. But how could anyone uphold the mistreatment of an individual?

At first I thought it was simply a college thing and people grow out of it. However, with these new allegations of Incognito’s actions and support of the team, I now realize hazing transcends age. The Dolphins’ locker room has been looked upon as a jailhouse environment ever since the allegations. A sport believed to be played by grown men now finds itself in an ethical dilemma. Should the league construct a league-wide investigation on other teams acting in such ways? Or does it simply slide it under the rug and close the book with a simple suspension of Incognito? If the NFL chooses the second option, not only would it be ignoring a very strong controversy, but would face some questions regarding discrimination. How could players in the NFL support and look up to a bully like Incognito, who happens to be white, and look down upon, make fun of and abuse an educated man like Martin, who happens to be black? A former Dolphins player even stated Incognito was an “honorary” black person, while ESPN.com sportswriter Jason Whitlock wrote that if Incognito was “honorary,” then Martin was a “sellout.” To me, that seems pretty unjust.

The NFL has a hard pill to swallow on its hands. However, I think this story has bigger implications than just the NFL. The league is on a platform where it can reach out to millions of viewers. The way it reacts to these hazing allegations will set an example as to whether or not hazing is acceptable for younger generations to take part in. I personally have not been a part of hazing in my life, thankfully. However, my friends in Greek life as well as numerous sports teams have regarded it as their worst experience. Jonathan Martin was left with no choice but to leave the team and check into a hospital to deal with the abuse he has been enduring. How could anyone support actions that might lead their peers in such a direction? Rite of passage or not, regardless of the setting, hazing should be treated as a serious evil by popular media and sport leagues, not supported or looked over, like the Dolphins organization seems to be doing.

Dennis Topakov is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]