The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

November 15, 2013

A problem NFL needs to tackle

‘My actions were coming from a place of love.”

So said Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, all 320 cuddly pounds, about his racist, profane and threatening behavior toward teammate Jonathan Martin.

Loving would not be the first adjective that comes to mind about Incognito’s voice mails and texts. Reports of the goings-on in the Dolphins locker room give new meaning to the phrase offensive line.

As in calling Martin a “half-[N-word] piece of [excrement].” Detailing plans to eliminate bodily wastes “in your [expletive deleted] mouth” and “slap your real mother across the face.” Announcing, “[Expletive deleted] you, you’re still a rookie, I’ll kill you.”

If that’s a place of love, you’ve got to wonder what Incognito says when he doesn’t like you. “No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that’s how we communicate, that’s how our friendship was,” Incognito told Fox Sports.

Let me stipulate: Sports is not my strong point. Football is not my forte. My experience with team sports is limited to a single inglorious high-school season playing junior varsity field hockey.

Certain people (read: a certain husband) have suggested that I’d therefore be foolish to weigh in. It’s impossible to comprehend this story, this argument goes, without understanding something about raunchy locker room culture in general and the revved-up aggression of professional football in particular.

To which my answer is: precisely. This behavior is incomprehensible. And the notion that it is some inherent, essential aspect of the ethos of sports or football to have people treating (or mistreating) one another this way is repulsive to fans and insulting to athletes.

Yes, football is a violent sport. It involves astonishingly large men deliberately inflicting pain on one another — authorized, highly compensated barbarism. It must be hard to flick an on-off switch to modulate that brutality.

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