A clearer picture is emerging of the complex relationship between Miami Dolphins players and former offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, who quit the team last week.
Martin, 24, left the team amid allegations of gay, racist bullying and harassment by Dolphins players. The Dolphins suspended linebacker Richie Incognito, 30, for allegedly bullying Martin. But despite a gag order from the Dolphins' front office, the players -- both black and white -- are speaking out in defense of Incognito.
Dolphins players say Martin and Incognito were "best friends." And they paint a picture of the Stanford educated Martin as a self-hating black man who thought his Ivy league education made him superior to his black teammates. Despite the Dolphins being among the more diverse teams in the NFL, Martin spent most of his time with white teammates. This helps explain why several black players are lining up to defend Incognito.
“I have never heard him say [the N-word] around me,” offensive guard John Jerry said. of Incognito “I would have just laughed it off if he had. He’s a guy I’m with more than my own family, so I know what type of guy he is, and he’s not a racist.”
“The people that can hurt you the most in this world are the people that are the closest to you,” said wide receiver Brian Hartline, who added that Martin had laughed about Incognito's vulgar, racist voicemail that was sent by Incognito last Spring. “This was the same guy who was laughing about the voicemail once upon a time,” Hartline said.
Other players chimed in, including Dolphins offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, who said Martin is out of line and “needs to be a man about this.”
“I think that what’s perceived is that Richie is this psychopath, racist maniac,” Clabo said. “The reality is that Richie was a pretty good teammate, and that Richie and Jonathan Martin were friends.”
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (pictured above) said he and other teammates are speaking out because of the media's portrayal of the entire team as a group of racist bullies.
“If I had any idea that it was an issue or [Martin] was struggling, of course I would have constantly checked on him to see if he was OK,” Tannehill said. “But you can’t help a situation that you didn’t even know existed. No one on this team knew it existed.
“Everyone’s attacking the locker room and saying there was no leadership because they didn’t stop the situation,” Tannehill continued. “But no one knew there was a situation to stop.”
Hartline called the criticism of his coach and teammates "unfair."
“They’re attacking our coach, they’re attacking the values of the rest of the people in this locker room, and they have the [microphone] last,” Hartline said. “We weren’t fighting back, and we just had to sit back and listen to it for a couple of days. And we’re kind of tired of it.”
Martin, a closeted gay man who reportedly had a romantic interest in Incognito, entered a rehab facility soon after taking a leave of absence from the team.
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