By Ken Reed

As I went through Ted Wells’ report on the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin situation in Miami, my primary emotion transitioned from anger to sadness.

What Incognito said and did was despicable. And if the allegations in the report are true, offensive line coach Jim Turner should be fired for, among numerous other things, buying a male blow-up doll for Martin. Offensive linemen Mike Pouncey and John Jerry should be suspended for bullying, and Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin should be severely disciplined, if not fired. It’s extremely hard to believe that Philbin didn’t have an inkling of what was going on in his team’s locker room.

But anger, frustration and disappointment aside, this whole case is just plain sad for anyone who loves sports. I played organized team sports through college and what I miss most is not the athletic competition but the camaraderie of being on a team with a collective goal. Upon reflection, it’s the bonding, and the sharing of ups and downs through a season and career, that makes team sports special.

I have been part of enough locker rooms to know that jokes at another player’s expense are part of the locker room culture that helps develop team bonding. Things can be said and done in a locker room that are part of the good-natured bonding ritual that would be viewed as mean-spirited in other parts of society.

But what was going on in Miami went well beyond anything that could be considered healthy.

“We also recognized that good-spirited goading often contributes to team bonding,” wrote Wells in his report. “But limits should exist.” Indeed.

There apparently weren’t any limits in Philbin’s locker room. Incognito, and his band of abusive brothers, went well beyond the athlete’s code of allowable conduct. They broke an important trust in team sports.

To me, the best part of team sports is that it brings people together — often for life.

The fact that it was just the opposite in Miami is why the Incognito-Martin case is so sad.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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