The mission was about “breaking JMart.” Richie Incognito stated as much in his infamous notebook, the one he and other Miami Dolphins offensive linemen kept to register fines in their 2013 kangaroo court of locker-room abuse. A classic bully and ringleader of the harassment sideshow, Incognito took special glee in pummeling JMart — a sensitive, depressed linemate named Jonathan Martin — with racial slurs, sexual taunts and an ongoing pattern of vicious torment.
He mocked Martin for not being “black enough.” He told Martin in vulgar detail that he and other teammates were going to rape his sister. Day after day, week after week, he was relentless in targeting the 6-5, 312-pound tackle as a “c—,” a “f—–.” Incognito thought he was being funny, a class clown, a bro-mate, a dude.
Little did he know that Martin was suicidal, in the throes of a particularly dark period in which he attempted to take his life on multiple occasions. Little did the bully know that he really was breaking JMart, with the former Stanford standout and 49ers reserve using his Facebook page Tuesday night to share his struggles with the very feelings that Incognito cruelly exploited — not being “black enough” — after a prep school upbringing in Los Angeles and a period of privileged academia on the Palo Alto campus. Forced to accept and sometimes join in with the boys-will-be-boys culture of his first NFL team, Martin turned to alcohol, marijuana and strip joints while trading racy texts with Incognito.
All it did was leave him more depressed, less interested in living.
“You’ve been told you’re not ‘black enough’ your entire life. It nearly destroys you, many times, not fitting in,” Martin wrote. “Your talent & accomplishments on the field never seem to be able to overcome the demons that you carry with you for your middle school and high school experience. You’re always inadequate, always ‘the pussy,’ the ‘weird kid who acts white.’
“You overcompensate, create a persona separate from who you really are, use it as motivation to gain respect from playing a game. … You see football as the only thing that you are good at, your only avenue to make the shy, depressed, weird kid from high school ‘cool.’”
Enter Incognito, Mike Pouncey, John Jerry, the bullying. This convergence became a life-and-death crisis.
“Years later, your time in the NFL is a wake up call,” Martin wrote. “In all likelihood, anyone else in your [lousy] locker room situation probably wouldn’t take everything so personally, would’ve been able to brush it off and say ‘F— it, you’re making millions. You’re starting as a rookie. You’re living your dream.’ But you’re different. Have always been different. Have always been more sensitive.
“You thought your same work ethic that has made you a two-time All-American, a 2nd Rd NFL draft pick, would earn you respect. … You are very wrong. You need to demand respect, and be willing to fight for it every day. The whitewashed, hermetically sealed bubble you grew up in and were educated in did not provide any of those lessons.”
Amid the abuse, Martin would call his mother, who couldn’t help from 3,000 miles away. Nor could the Dolphins help, with head coach Joe Philbin oblivious to Martin’s pain or even what was happening in a locker room commandeered by Incognito and his cohorts.
“Your job leads you to attempt to kill yourself on multiple occasions,” Martin wrote. “Your self-perceived social inadequacy dominates your every waking moment & thought. You are petrified of going to work. You either sleep 12, 14, 16 hours a day when you can, or not at all. You drink too much, smoke weed constantly, have trouble focusing on doing your job, playing the sport you grew up obsessed with.
“But one day, you realize how absurd your current mindset is, that this s— doesn’t matter. People don’t matter. Money doesn’t matter. Fame and notoriety sure as hell don’t matter. Nothing matters besides your family, a few close friends, and your own personal happiness.”
How Incognito is still in the NFL, given a second chance this season by Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, is beyond me. If life were fair, he would be gone from the sport and Martin would be in training camp somewhere. It appeared he would have new life last year with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh, who coached him at Stanford, but after Harbaugh was fired, the Niners released him. He was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers, but he surprised the team by retiring just before camp, citing a back injury.
Jonathan Martin finds himself at a life crossroads. Maybe he’ll find happiness without football. Maybe he’ll go awry with the sport’s daily structure. You hope his Facebook post represents guidance for others, not his own plea for help.
“You play another year and a half and get badly injured,” he said, referring to his recent back issue. “You want to keep playing, but having broken free of the addiction that football had been, you know inside that risking permanent debilitating injury isn’t worth it. So you retire.”
Though his recent route is more circuitous than the paths of Chris Borland, Anthony Davis, Patrick Willis and the rest, Martin is yet another player who left the sport after playing for the Niners last season. Not that Jed York and Trent Baalke are thinking about the mass exodus now, not after the latest crime news Wednesday night: Linebacker Ahmad Brooks was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, an alleged assault involving the same accuser of former 49er Ray McDonald, who was indicted on one count of rape of an intoxicated person.
Martin should be relieved to be rid of the NFL’s bad seeds. He sounds bitter about more than the bullies, writing, “You realize that your experiences have taught you that you need to leave the baggage behind. ‘Friends’ who you played high school football with saying whatever to get their name in an article. Former coaches blowing up your phone to be your financial advisor. Your god father suddenly appearing your senior year of college out of thin air bearing gifts, trying to get tickets to your games & slyly asking your parents to manage your money. You realize who truly has had your back.’’
With that, Martin concluded with his purpose for the post: “You let your demons go, knowing that, perhaps, sharing your story can help some other chubby, goofy, socially-isolated kid getting bullied in America who feels like no one in the world cares about them. And let them know that they are not alone.”
Every one of the world’s bullies, including Richie Incognito, should pause.
And realize what low forms of life they’ve become.