Without explicitly coming out and saying it, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross seemed to call former Dolphins player and current Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito a racist. The quote from Ross, which comes from Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post, was uttered while Ross was speaking to the Palm Beach Civic Association on Monday.
"This bullying incident was really a product of racism," Ross said to the 100 or so assembled guests, per Ostrowski.
The "bullying incident" of which Ross is speaking, of course, involved Incognito, a white man, and fellow former Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, a black man. Martin, a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, left the Dolphins about halfway through his second season in Miami citing "emotional" issues. It was revealed later, through a league and team-mandated investigation, that Incognito and others had harassed, bullied and otherwise tormented Martin, an admittedly sensitive man, to the point that he no longer felt safe within the Dolphins locker room.
Incognito was suspended indefinitely on Nov. 3, 2014 and subsequently reinstated by the league and the Dolphins in February. A few days after his reinstatement, Incognito signed with Rex Ryan's Bills.
Martin would eventually be traded to the San Francisco 49ers, but was released in March 2015 and finally, at age 26, announced his retirement from the NFL. As part of his retirement announcement, he revealed that he had attempted suicide on multiple occasions during his professional career.
Ross has taken on what Ostrowski calls an "active" role with the Jackie Robinson Foundation since the incident and has also launched The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality.
As for Incognito, he's been in the NFL for nearly a decade now, playing alongside and under plenty of black, white and other colored players and coaches. At the time, there was plenty of indication that Incognito targeted Martin because he was black, including his use of the N-word. But Martin also traded barbs of his own with Incognito and other teammates, clouding the picture some and creating a confused and ultimately unfortunate picture for everyone involved.
But if Incognito is indeed racist as Ross seems to be suggesting, that's an issue not just for the Bills and the notoriously line-stepping Ryan, but also for the league for (still) employing someone so small-minded.