It’s time to stop judging black athletes

Many people would agree that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin is a victim of racism. It has been reported that the text messages and voice mails he received from fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito were threatening and had racial overtones.

But, if there hadn’t been any racial aspects to the messages and voice mails, would the threats and violent attitudes towards Martin still be considered to have a racial bias? In other words, could Martin have been bullied without having been discriminated against for his race?

Those are hard questions to answer definitively, since there is only room to speculate. In fact, just about the whole Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin/Miami Dolphins debacle involves speculation because getting into the minds of others is impossible.

The situation is a subtle one to analyze. I believe one of the main points missed has to do with how black athletes are perceived.

Up until a few years ago, many black athletes were being turned away from playing quarterback in the NFL. Why was that? Because scouts and organizational football elite thought they were typically better built for skill positions like running back and wide receiver.

There are plenty of other examples of black athletes being stereotyped, probably too many to count. A few that come to my mind are that blacks can’t play winter-type of sports or blacks can’t swim. Those stereotypes now look ridiculous.

I think that Jonathan Martin got a different dose of judgement, not involving physical skills.

Incognito picked on him because he was different as a person and he wasn’t the type of athlete Incognito and the Dolphins were used to being around. They threatened him and were negative towards him as a way to force him to change his way of thinking as an athlete, or “toughen him up.”

But Incognito and others were never going to change who Martin is at his core. He’s his own person with his own thoughts and ideas. He should have been respected, just like any other teammate.

Either he measures up skills-wise and plays well or he doesn’t make the cut. In sports, it should always be about performance.

Black athletes are a diverse group. Black people, multi-racial people are diverse ethnic groups of people. They can’t all be pigeonholed and thought of as if they all act alike. That’s absurd.

It’s true many black athletes come from the inner-city and poor economic circumstances. It is also true that blacks over the last few decades have collectively gained a bigger place in the middle classes of American culture.

The harassment of Jonathan Martin was partly due to the players around him not identifying enough with him and trying to change him. Some of it had to do with race and the way people judge black athletes.

The other big part of this picture has to do with the culture of football, how the game must be played and how the sport moves forward in a progressive, politically correct social climate. That topic will have to wait for another time and place, as it deserves its own proper due with a full article.

Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of

About Howard M Alperin

Husband, Father, Teacher, Planner, Advisor, Counselor, Social Worker, Businessman, Consultant, Blogger, Author, Entrepreneur, Inventor, YMCA Coach, Marketer, Innovator, Advertiser, Promoter, Court Appointed Special Advocate to children, Volunteer, Runner, Athlete, Spanish Speaker, Non-Sports Card Collector, Dog Agility Enthusiast and OIF Veteran.


  1. Racism seems to be that scary monster under the bed for all of you liberal Kool-Aid guzzlers.

  2. Jon Washburn says:

    This article doesn’t make sense. Was Martin profiled against for being black or being intelligent? It can’t be both.
    If it’s the latter (which most people agree upon at this point considering his coaches told Incognito to do it and many black athletes defended Incognito), then racism doesn’t come into this picture at all.
    If it’s the former, then why do Mike Wallace and so many black Dolphins like Incognito? And why would the coaching staff even have black players?
    To say this article is reaching for straws would be offensive to understatements everywhere.

  3. Howard M Alperin says:

    I think to them it was that he was ‘not black enough’. I think the racism aspect probably took a smaller percentage of the entire debacle. I’d gauge it at 10-15%, maybe 18-20%. I think the racism here is subtle.

    I can’t say how the situation would have been had Martin been another player of a different background. My feeling is that everything should remain professional and his performance is what is ultimately what should be judged.

    As for other black players involved, that is a non-issue because racial bias can happen from a same race person.-sounds weird, I know, but it does happen. i.e. say there are two kids excelling at school roughly the same size in height and weight and the minority kid gets picked on and the other one doesn’t-maybe because the one not getting picked on is expected to do well. now, say the ones picking on him are from his race. it happens.

    As for drinking Kool-aid, I understand ur point, but, I think it would be too easy to dismiss the prejudice aspects of the whole thing. it’s not me getting taken in by the media. I believe there was subtle racial bias.

  4. Kurt Crowley says:

    As Jason Whitlock so eloquently stated, Jonathan Martin is what they refer to as a ‘sellout’…

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Whitlock, sadly, is correct. As to the mainstream media irked that black Dolphins player side with Incognito,
      must every black person support every other black person if the latter is wrong morally or commits a crime? Not necessarily in this situation, but in general?

      Why should Dr. Ben Carson be criticized by all the liberal Harvard professors, because they disagree with his politics? Or why are other prominent black conservative like JC Watts, Tim Scott, Clarence Thomas or Col. Allen West considered going “off the plantation” if they are all “brothers”?

      Jonathan Martin was clearly “off the plantation” too in that sense. He did not fit in. He was made weaker by elite “education” and upbringing. Maybe not weak, but different than most NFL players – black or white.
      Either way, just another black eye — no pun intended — for the NFL and another reason I avoid this league (and ESPN).

      • Dr. Ben Carson gets criticized (at least by me) because while he may be a brilliant doctor, when he ventures into political stuff he almost always misquotes people from history and spouts off nonsense. I don’t doubt his intelligence, just his political acumen and understanding. I don’t think it has anything to do with the color of his skin, just like I don’t think criticism of Obama has to do with skin color.

        He has, for months, claimed “Lenin said socialized medicine was the keystone of the arch of socialism and communism.” Lenin never came close to saying anything like that. He claims Thomas Jefferson and John Adams ensured that America was founded as a Christian nation (Jefferson was an atheist, while Adams disliked and distrusted organized religion and thought it had no place in government). He claims Obamacare is the worst law enacted since slavery (um, hi Jim Crow laws, anti-Civil Rights legislation, prohibition, segregation, etc.). I’m not a fan of Obamacare but that’s a ridiculous statement.

        Carson also busted out the “no one in this country is starving in the streets” line a few months ago. Really Ben? Have you ever been to the inner city? I have, plenty of times and it’s not pretty.

        As far as the Martin thing, he was targeted because he was different and didn’t fit in. I don’t think it was a black or white thing. He was just a different guy. From what I’ve heard from people who knew him at Stanford, he was a little nerdy and kind of weird. Not a hardcore jock like most of his teammates.

        That said, there is no excuse for the way Incognito acted.

  5. Howard M Alperin says:

    Martin was 12 years old when the Harry Potter movie series first got started. Do you think he had read the book before the movie was made?

  6. Wilbor Gavin says:

    I would be interested to see the e-mail and tweets from the black players on the dolphins team to Martin and his to them. Anyone who has worked with groups of blacks in any field knows when they are in groups they call each other the “N” word all the time. Inconitoes mistake was to ever believe he could be a member of that inner circle and use the ” N ” word with them. Regardless of what they say White people will never be able to use that word with blacks whether they say it is ok or not. When anything goes wrong in the work place., effecting any of their jobs they will always fall back on I was racially profiled just look at what this white guy done to me. What Martin wrote to Inconitoes is in material to anyone even though he never objected to the hazing before and gave as good as he got. Now he will sue for a lot of money get a big settlement and never have to touhen up to play his position on the team. Like dog the bounty hunter Inconitoes learned you can not be one of the black click, if you are white.

    Impossible to believe that with two white guys on the offensive line, one of the white guys was racially harassesing one of the blacks, if he was doing it without their permission he would be crippled or dead before this incident occurred.

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