Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin have dominated sports news in recent 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 came to light where Incognito allegedly used the N-word, 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.”
Language and behavior that would never be accepted in other settings is the norm in professional sports. Visits 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 considered “honorary Black,” to some players, 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?
The N-word is generously used on NFL sidelines, during the game, and in the locker rooms. 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. He tweeted, “I love my teammates like family, but I’m DONE standing up for these n——.”
The fine prompted former Phoenix Suns 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…[In] a locker room and with my friends, we use racial slurs.”
He added, “I understand he should not have made it public.”
Barkley has the IQ of room temperature, so his comments are not nearly as surprising as those of Michael Wilbon, a former columnist for the Washington Post and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.”
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 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 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 permission to use it.
So, if Incognito is a racist for using the N-word, what does that make Charles Barkley, Michael Wilbon and other Blacks who use it?
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm.