James Walker | ESPN.com
Richie Incognito spoke in-depth for the first time since his indefinite suspension, describing the Miami Dolphins‘ locker-room environment as a place where threats and racial slurs were acceptable and joking behavior.
Incognito deflected blame for many of his harsh actions against teammate Jonathan Martin during an interview with Fox Sports.
Incognito also accused Martin of using equally crass language, claiming that was the nature of their relationship.
“When words are put in a context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised,” Incognito told Fox Sports during the interview, which aired Sunday. “But people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another. For instance, a week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone, ‘I will murder your whole F’ing family.’
“Now, do I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit. He text me that. I didn’t think he was going to kill my family. I knew that was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate.”
Incognito staunchly denied bullying Martin and claimed to be Martin’s most supportive teammate. Incognito said he was genuinely surprised that Martin left the team and it became a national media firestorm.
“You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most, and they will undoubtedly tell you [it was me],” Incognito said. “Jon never showed signs that football was getting to him [or] the locker room was getting to him.”
Incognito confirmed that he did leave the controversial voice mail message to Martin last April that included racial slurs and a threat to kill Martin.
Despite the scathing language, Incognito said his actions “came from a place of love” and that vulgar communication was normal among Dolphins players.
“I’m not a racist, and to judge me by that one word is wrong,” Incognito said. “In no way, shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word, even if it’s friend-to-friend on a voicemail.
“It’s thrown around a lot. It’s a word that I’ve heard Jon use a lot. It’s not saying it’s right that I did it and used it in a voice mail. But it’s a lot of colorful words that being thrown around in a locker room that we don’t use in everyday life.”
The NFL is investigating the troubled relationship between Incognito and Martin, who left the Dolphins two weeks ago because of emotional issues stemming from alleged harassment and misconduct.
“All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, our closeness, our brotherhood,” Incognito said. “And the racism, the bad words, that’s what I regret most. But that’s a product of the environment.”
Martin recently hired lawyer David Cornwell, who released a statement last week claiming that Martin was the victim of constant harassment from various teammates, including a “malicious physical attack.”
Several Dolphins veterans denied having a violent locker room on Saturday.
Incognito has long history for questionable behavior. The NFL talked to Incognito in 2012 for two incidents, one of which included allegations of molestation of a female volunteer at a Dolphins charity golf tournament, sources told ESPN.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Saturday the team was aware of the 2012 incident and “took immediate action,” declining to reveal specifics. Following the incident, Incognito started all 16 games in 2012 and was voted on the team’s leadership counsel before the 2013 season.
The Dolphins (4-4) will play the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- A Temple graduate and Hyattsville, Md., native who lives in Miami
- Joined ESPN in 2008