MiniPost: Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin: Four years later and a micro-rant on CTE

Posted: June 14, 2018 in Football, Mental Health, New entries, NFL

In February of 2014, NFL investigator Ted Wells released a report indicating former Dolphins OL Richie Incognito had engaged in a “pattern of harassment” against teammate Jonathan Martin with comments of a racial nature as well as sexual comments about his mother and sister. The incident was a major news item for the NFL at the time with different fans taking both sides of the situation.* Since then both players’ careers and personal lives have taken a sharp turn into devastation, or so it seems.

Jonathan Martin would later be traded to the 49ers, then coached by his former college coach Jim Harbaugh where he played one season before retiring. Martin recently (Feb. 2018) was arrested after posting on Instagram a message that implied he intended to shoot up his former prep school Harvard Westlake and listed names of former teammates including Richie Incognito next to a photo of a shotgun. Martin would later be detained by police.

Incognito had finished his three year contract in Miami and remained unsigned for a year before signing with the Buffalo Bills. Incognito had a successful three-year run with the Bills before retiring, un-retiring, asking for release from the Bills, and then apparently losing his mind at a gym in Florida (May 2018) where he accused another man of spying on him for the NSA and throwing a barbell at him. Incognito, while not arrested, was subject to involuntary mental evaluation under the Baker Act after his outburst. Incognito posted on his twitter that he is home and hoping to sign with another team.

I am not an expert on mental health issues, playing pro football, or how playing pro football affects one’s mental health. The issues at play with both Martin and Incognito imply that playing professional football, a sport heavily inundated with concussions and inherent violence exacerbate existing mental health issues in players or cause them in the first place.

In 2017, Boston University conducted a study on the brains of 111 former NFL players and found that 110 of them (99%) showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, two former NFL players who ended their life after retiring.  I’d love to say I have a solution here. An answer for how to help people like Martin and Incognito, and how to prevent future athletes from having these same situations occur. While I firmly believe bullying is wrong and has no justification I can’t believe that just saying: “Don’t Bully” will make much of a difference. The eventual future looks like Football will have to be so changed that it is unrecognizable to Football today or for Football to be banned altogether. I only have more questions.

Don’t let your kids play Football.

*(Sidenote: I remember reading a youtube comment saying that Martin was a millionaire and an adult and shouldn’t cry about being made fun of at work. I later concluded that one should be able to go to their place of employment without being bullied, harassed, or having your race or family members sexually commented on by a coworker, NFL player or not.)

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