The Miami Dolphins' Offended Lineman: Richie Incognito vs Jonathan Martin

By Lloyd, Zachary A.; Davis, Craig L. | Journal of Case Studies, May 2018 | Go to article overview

The Miami Dolphins' Offended Lineman: Richie Incognito vs Jonathan Martin


Lloyd, Zachary A., Davis, Craig L., Journal of Case Studies


This case was prepared by the authors and was intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. The views presented here are those of the authors based on professional judgment and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society for Case Research. Copyright [c] 2018 by the Society for Case Research and the authors. No part of this work may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means without the written permission of the Society for Case Research.

Situation

Perhaps Jonathan Martin felt a little off as he walked into the training cafeteria for six o'clock dinner in late October of 2013. With the freshly aching memory of a 27-17 loss to the Patriots the day before, he wasn't the only defeated Dolphin on the grounds. But Martin's quiet mood that day wasn't coming from the defeat in Foxborough; it stemmed from something much closer to home.

As the 6-foot-three-inch, 312 lb. offensive tackle grabbed his food tray and waited in the buffet line; he heard a shout from the lineman's table, to move and find a seat by himself. The yell came from his fellow lineman and friend, Richie Incognito, who had been hurling similar racial slurs at Martin since their film meeting earlier that day. "One more taunt like that," Martin thought to himself, "and I'm leaving." As soon as Martin sat down to eat at the lineman's table, the rest of his teammates jumped up and moved across the cafeteria. Martin snapped.

He smashed his food on the ground, stormed out of the cafeteria, bought a large bottle of vodka and then checked himself into a hospital, which he said was for his own safety. Three-and-a-half hours after his explosive supper, alone in a hospital, Martin texted his parents and the Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin informing them of his location. He later admitted he was not thinking clearly at the time, and had experienced frightening suicidal thoughts. When Philbin received Martin's text message that night, he visited his player in the hospital. Though he expressed his concern to his player, the two did not discuss the incident earlier in the day or the circumstances that drove Martin to his current state (Wells & Karp, 2014).

It was only a matter of hours before the media would release the story. The Dolphins organization had no choice but to list Martin as missing from the next day's practice, and the media would want to know why. Something serious was going on within the team and off the playing field, and this incident had become the catalyst set to ignite an explosion of media investigations and potential lawsuits. Was this just an isolated incident involving an overly emotional player, or was this a team-wide problem of epic proportions? And if the latter was true, how should the coaches, players, management, and employees of this $3.1 billion franchise deal with it once the media frenzy began?

One Tough Sport

The National Football League was formed out of the American Professional Football Association in 1922 and originally fielded 18 teams in total, eventually rising to the 32 teams in the league today (NFL, 2015). While baseball may hold the title of America's pastime, football was America's game. The epitome of rugged masculinity, this sport had been a source of national pride since its inception before the turn of the century. Football was characterized by large amounts of high-impact contact between players, making it one of the most dangerous sports in the country.

Each team had 11 players on the field at a time--one offense and one defense--and the basic objective of the offense was to pass or run the football from one end of the field to the other without getting stopped by the defense. The quarterback directs the offense and was guarded against opposing players who try to tackle him by the tallest, heaviest, strongest group of players on the field; the Offensive Line. The "O Line," was made up of one center, with a guard and a tackle on either side of him. …

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