When video surfaced this summer of Riley Cooper using racial slurs at a concert, the Philadelphia Eagles receiver apologized profusely. He met with the media and looked to be on the verge of tears. He briefly left the team to seek sensitivity training. He came back on bended knee.
That hasn’t been the case so far with Miami guard Richie Incognito, who has been suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins for conduct detrimental to the team. Teammate Jonathan Martin provided at least one voice message and text messages, allegedly from Incognito, that are harassing and include racial slurs.
At least publicly, Incognito has been unrepentant. He has demanded on Twitter that his name be cleared, over the weekend tweeting to ESPN: “shame on you for attaching my name to false speculation. I won't be holding my breathe for an apology,” and to the network’s Adam Schefter: “Enough is enough If you or any of the agents you sound off for have a problem with me, you know where to find me #BRINGIT.”
Unlike the Eagles, who handled the Cooper situation in-house, the Dolphins have asked the NFL to get involved and investigate the team’s workplace conditions. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross made that request directly to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
That’s significant. Because of the nature of the language on the voice message, along with Incognito’s troubled history in the league, it would not be surprising if Goodell were to come down hard -- if Incognito is guilty of what he’s being accused of, that is.
There has been speculation about whether the Dolphins will take Incognito back, or if another team might sign him. But the league might make that a moot point. If the league decides that Incognito is guilty, it’s conceivable that Goodell could impose his own open-ended suspension, banning him from the league.
What’s more, the NFL is likely to take a firmer, more decisive stance on all types of player hazing and harassment. This situation looks bad for the league, and it’s bigger than one player giving another a hard time. The people at the Park Avenue headquarters are not likely to look the other way.