In his first interview since he became the focus of bullying allegations from colleague Jonathan Martin, Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito insisted he's not the "racist pig" that recent reports have painted him to be.
Incognito, who's white, acknowledged the racial slur and expletive-ridden voicemail he left for Martin, who's bi-racial, and admitted he was embarrassed by it, but continually argued it was part of his normal friendship and not malicious.
"When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come up across the screen, I’m embarrassed by it," he said in an interview with Fox Sports. "I’m embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate, it’s vulgar. It’s, it’s not right."
"I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised, but people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another," he added.
While many Dolphins players have come to Incognito's defense in recent days, with some even describing him as an "honorary" black guy, others have criticized his use of the n-word. That includes Warren Sapp, who revealed last week that Incognito had used the term with him on the field, presumably to try to rile him up.
But Incognito repeatedly described Martin as a friend and said that his communication with him seemed worse when taken out of context. "[M]y actions were coming from a place of love. No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that’s how we communicate, that’s how our friendship was, and those are the facts, and that’s what I’m accountable for," he said.
To help justify his argument that the tense language was typical for them, he described a text Martin had sent him, which apparently said jokingly, "I will murder your whole effing family."
Martin's lawyer, David Cornwell, tweeted in response shortly after that interview, sharing the text that he claims Martin sent to Incognito, a relatively well known (NFSW) internet meme of an excited dog, with the message "U decide."
“This isn’t an issue about bullying,” Incognito told Fox Sports. “This is an issue of my and Jon’s relationship. You can ask anyone in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you me. All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of our brotherhood.”
Incognito also said that Martin had reached out to him in the days after the story broke to say he didn't blame him.
“Wassup man? The world’s gone crazy lol. I’m good tho congrats on the win,” Martin wrote in a text verified by Fox Sports. “Yeah I’m good man. It’s insane bro but just know I don’t blame you guys at all. It’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little.”
Incognito's take is not entirely inconsistent with what Cornwell claimed last week, when he released a statement saying that Martin endured bullying from multiple teammates.
"Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing," he said in the statement, according to NBC Sports. "For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying."