ESPN’s Michael Wilbon and TNT’s Charles Barkley have both said this week that the N-word is something that is completely acceptable among others in the black community and essentially White America doesn’t understand, but both agreed the word shouldn’t be used in a public setting.
It is one thing if Wallace, Pouncey, Wake and even Martin were using it while interacting in the locker room, but they weren’t. Incognito was using the term in a derogatory manner toward Martin, who comes from a bi-racial household. Hearing the N-word word makes you wonder what Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, or Rose Parks would have thought about the behavior of these football players. Slavery was common-place in America for more than 200 years, and hearing the N-word conjures images of abuse and degradation of thousands of human beings. I wouldn’t feel comfortable using such a charged word in public or in private.
Although progress has been made, racism is far from gone in American society. But every time Riley Cooper or Richie Incognito spout off, we take two steps back as a society.
Another facet to this story is that of bullying and how a 300-pound offensive lineman can find himself in a situation like that is surprising to say the least. In all professional sports some rookie hazing goes on, but for the most part it is playful not abusive. The hazing usually includes activities like having rookies carrying shoulder pads off the practice field, buying the team dinner, or being dumped in a cold tub. None of this appears to be remotely similar to what Martin experienced in Miami. According to reports, the Miami coaches encouraged Incognito to “toughen up” Martin. It would appear Incognito rode Martin very hard until he broke and couldn’t handle it anymore.