Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, both of the Miami Dolphins, have dominated the news in the sports world for the past two weeks, but for all the wrong reasons Supposedly, Martin was “bullied” by Incognito to the point that Martin left the team indefinitely. Each plays on the offensive line, stands more than 6 feet, and weighs more than 300 pounds.
Incognito has a checkered past dating back to his college days at the University of Nebraska. He has been suspended or disciplined from every team he has played on for various forms of conduct detrimental to the team. After recent voicemails of Incognito using the N-word and threatening Martin’s family became public, the Dolphins suspended him indefinitely.
Many have voiced their opinions on the Dolphin’s situation, but none of them deal with the real facts of this case. If you have never been in a professional locker room or on the sidelines during a game, this may be alien to you. In Proverbs 4:7, the Bible states, “Wisdom is the principle thing, therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding.”
There are things that are done and spoken in the context of professional sports that those outside of that circle will never relate to or understand. Language and behavior that would never be accepted in other settings is the norm in professional sports. A visit to the locker rooms or sidelines are not for the faint of heart.
Still, I put this whole debacle with the Miami Dolphins at the feet of the Black players on the team as well as the Black community in general.
Several players on the Dolphins have said that Incognito was an “honorary Black” – whatever that means.
Most people gain “honorary” status into a group by doing something positive to advance that group’s cause or mission. So, because Incognito learned how to use the N-word, they made him a member our community? Really? Remember, we are the same group that claimed Bill Clinton was the first Black president because he played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall’s TV show and had extramarital affairs.
The N-word is generously used on NFL sidelines, during the game, and in the locker rooms. Everyone in the NFL is not only aware, but has heard this type of crude language incessantly when around players. The same can be said of the NBA.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes was recently fined $25,000 by the NBA after he was ejected from a game his team won 111-103. He tweeted, “I love my teammates like family, but I’m DONE standing up for these n——.”
The fine prompted former Phoenix Sun star Charles Barkley to comment on TNT: “I’m a black man. I use the N-word. I’m going to continue to use the N-word with my black friends, with my white friends, they are my friends…Hey Ernie, in a locker room and with my friends, we use racial slurs. I understand he should not have made it public.”
Barkley has the IQ of room temperature, so his comments are not nearly as surprising Michael Wilbon, a former columnist for the Washington Post and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” saying essentially the same thing.
According to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column, Wilbon said he uses the N-word “all day, every day of my life” and that others have no right to tell Black people how to use it.
We, as Blacks, can’t continue to say it’s Okay for Blacks to use the N-word, but it’s not Okay for others to use it. The word should not be used under any circumstance by anyone. Ever.
In all my years working with professional athletes, I have never heard a Hispanic player use derogatory terms about his own people in front of mixed company. Nor have I ever seen them empower an outsider to call them a derogatory word, pretending it is a term of endearment.
This behavior is unique to Blacks and it’s our fault. We must stop blaming others when they use offensive language and words that we use among ourselves. I am embarrassed that we actually debate who can use the N-word and under what circumstances.
Incognito was wrong only to the extent that he is an adult and controls what comes out of his mouth. But don’t blame him for being comfortable using this type of language because we gave him the permission to use it.
So, if Incognito is a racist for using the N-word, what does that make Charles Barkeley, Michael Wilbon and other Blacks who use it? Let’s stop castigating people such as Incognito when we have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, http://www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.