Marshall: Culture of NFL needs to change
November, 6, 2013
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall views the situation taking place in Miami involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin as more evidence the culture of the NFL needs to change.

ďYou canít show that youíre hurt. You canít show any pain,Ē Marshall said of the NFLís culture of machismo. ďSo for a guy that comes in the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, thatís a problem. So thatís what I mean by the culture of the NFL, and thatís what we have to change.Ē

Martin recently checked into a South Florida hospital to be treated for emotional distress that led to him leaving the team last week, according to ESPNís Chris Mortensen, who also reported the trip to the hospital was related to the offensive tackleís belief that he had been targeted during a sustained level of harassment from teammates, including Incognito.

The Dolphins suspended Incognito on Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team after reps for Martin provided the team voicemail and text evidence of the alleged harassment.

Having played two seasons with Incognito on the Dolphins (2010 and 2011), Marshall expressed that ďyou have to be sensitive to the kid, Martin, and what heís going throughĒ because itís ďa serious situation.Ē But the receiver also said the NFL shouldnít ban Incognito, and that hazing occurs ďin every locker room.Ē

ďLook at it from this standpoint. Take a little boy and a little girl. The little boy falls down, and the first thing we say as parents: ĎGet up, shake it off. Youíll be OK, donít cry.í When the girl falls down, what do we say? ĎItís gonna be OK,íĒ Marshall explained. ďWe validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, weíre teaching our men to mask their feelings, donít show their emotions. And itís that times 100 with football players. So whatís going on in Miami, it goes on in every locker room. But itís time for us to start talking, maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and talk about whatís going on off the field or whatís going on in the building and not mask everything because the [longer] it goes untreated, the worse it gets. Unfortunately you see this kid, Martin, heís been harboring these feelings for the past two years and now heís at a boiling point where he has to walk out. Itís a good thing that it didnít escalate to something more serious. But itís time for us to take a look at some things that we can do that are proactive and start with some group sessions or group therapy or other innovative things out there.Ē

An outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, Marshall also added some context to one of the significant allegations being reviewed in the Miami situation. Sources told ESPN that Incognito convinced Martin to contribute $15,000 to help pay for a trip to Las Vegas last summer for a group of teammates, despite the offensive tackleís preference to not travel with the team. Martin paid the $15,000, fearing consequences if he did not hand over the money, sources told ESPN.

Marshall said that a trip to Las Vegas is a yearly tradition of Miamiís offensive linemen, one that existed before Incognito ever became a Dolphin.

ďI would say this about Richie: I was there in Miami, and those guys have been doing that. The offensive linemen had been doing that before Richie got there. Itís a tradition down in Miami that the offensive linemen go to Vegas,Ē Marshall said. ďI was actually invited to go to a trip, and the rookies, they were supposed to pick up a big piece of the cost. But the veterans would chip in. [Dolphins center Mike] Pouncey paid his part of it, and didnít even get on the flight. He ended up meeting the guys out there. There are some things out there where thatís what I mean by [saying], ĎItís in every locker room.í That had been there before Richie was there, and I was around that. So I donít think there were any ill feelings. Itís just a part of the tradition that was there.Ē

Marshall mentioned that he keeps in contact with Incognito and enjoyed playing with the guard during their days together in Miami. Marshall also discussed the racially charged text messages allegedly sent from Incognito to Martin.

In an NFL locker room, racist remarks cut both ways, he said.

ďIt was kind of disturbing to see some of the things that were said, but I also know that itís not an isolated incident. Itís unfortunately the culture of the NFL," Marshall said. "We walk around saying the N-word as black players, and itís not right. We get offended when the white player says it. Thatís on him and where his heartís at when he says it. It doesnít make it right. But we canít jump down a guyís throat because heís saying it and heís white. The black guys are saying it, too; doesnít make it right. People are capable of change. Thatís something Richie has to deal with. Iím not condoning that. But people do things and say things that are hurtful. Thatís something that Richie has to deal with.Ē