It's unfortunate that here we are in 2013, and stories involving ignorance and racial prejudice remain - that hate and professional abuse persist in the world today. Many parts of the world have evolved past this; why can't the NFL?
The Miami Dolphins' story with offensive lineman Richie Incognito and his slew of hate toward teammate Jonathan Martin is evidence that the NFL still has some social evolution to do.
Incognito's actions go beyond "rookie hazing" and into the realm of hate and abuse. The Dolphins have suspended their former team captain indefinitely. Jonathan Martin is long gone from the team. The consequences of Incognito's actions will linger with the organization for some time.
But most alarming is the Miami Dolphins' leadership, or lack thereof, turning a blind eye to Incognito's abuse toward Martin, and presumably others. The disconcerting question is whether this behavior pervades the NFL, where the typical workplace environment is anything but typical.
Are there 100 Richie Incognito's in the NFL?
Perhaps -- and that's what the NFL media world wants to know. That's why this story is making headlines. The curtain has been lifted, and the mainstream media have visibility to the big, bad world of the NFL locker room. Perhaps this vile abuse is the norm.
Perhaps not. According to Broncos players, there isn't a Richie Incognito in Denver, Colorado.
Denver sports radio host Brandon Spano took the time to ask a number of players about the Incognito story Monday morning, as news was still breaking. He reports --
One player that I spent a lengthy amount of time talking to was appalled by the specifics. He agreed with me that this is not something that would ever happen in the Broncos locker room. In fact, almost every player that I talked to agreed that there is no way that a situation could get this out of hand at Dove Valley and that there must have been a serious lack of leadership for something to go so far. The breaking point for this particular player seemed to be the racist comments. As tough as these men are, racism is not acceptable.
The player did note that the Broncos team captains would never let a player abuse another in this manner. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, Richie Incognito was a team captain.
In my opinion, that makes all the difference. The first best defense to ignorance and hate is and always will be the strong voice of one's peers. The Dolphins lacked the locker room leader who could put Incognito in his place -- in fact, they made Incognito one such leader, which tells you everything you need to know.
By contrast, the Broncos have leaders in the locker room like Peyton Manning and Wesley Woodyard who would never allow such behavior. The Broncos have men who understand when hazing has gone too far. I hope it always remains that way.
While we're all uneasy as we face the facts to this story, at least we can find strength that in at least one NFL locker room, in Denver, Colorado, we have evolved.