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Outside The Hashes

October 2, 2015

We need to talk a bit about Jonathan Martin. I’ve been sitting on this for a while now, and I feel like I can properly articulate how I feel about Jonathan Martin and his exit from the NFL. In particular, I’ve been thinking about his life after Richie Incognito.

For those not in the know, Jonathan Martin is the poster child for bad locker room scenarios. By most measures, people wouldn’t know him. It kind of sucks that I do. He was an NFL player, drafted by the Dolphins in 2012. Late in 2013, he left the Dolphins, and allegations arose that another player, Richie Incognito, had been essentially bullying the man.

We’re not talking about schoolyard, “you’re stupid” bullying. Incognito was accused of physically threatening Martin’s family. He was recorded calling Martin some words that can’t be printed here. Let’s just say it starts with “N,” and rhymes with “bigger.” There was a death threat. Incognito threatened to slap Martin’s mother across the face. Unacceptable behavior ran rampant, and Martin left the team. He came back later, was traded, hung around the league a bit, got hurt and retired.

Fast forward to this past August. I’m scrolling through Twitter, and I notice that Jonathan Martin is trending. I look into it, and find an image attached to a tweet captioned “If you didn’t know, now you know.”

Martin wrote an essay in the second person about his experiences with football, life, and mental health. Which I thought was great, obviously. It was someone pointing out that some locker room situations are not great. It acknowledged the struggle of kids like Martin that struggled with identity. It discussed the good of letting go, the good of understanding the business and an athlete finally acknowledged the importance of mental and emotional health.

He was promptly criticized for it, and that’s what I want to talk about. We’ve got to support the Jonathan Martins of the world, the ones that don’t look vulnerable, but are. The kid in high school that doesn’t have many friends. The awkward, geeky kid. The kid with mental disabilities. These are the people that Martin is speaking to, just as much as the athletes. We have to be able to let them feel vulnerable, even if it’s just for a second. Let them say they feel bad. We have to give these people the opportunity.

How does the expectation for players to be stoic at all times affect them? Martin is no coward. I wish more people made it. create more Richie Incognito-types. We have an opportunity to have an honest discussion about Jonathan Martin. We can’t afford to waste it.

Anthony Adams
Sports Columnist

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