Hazing or bullying? Was what Offensive Lineman Richie Incognito did to fellow Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin an initiation rite of passage; or mean spirited bullying complete with threats of violence and racial taunts.

Or, to put it in layman’s terms – is Richie Incognito being a complete douche, or is Jonathan Martin too soft?

When I first saw the story, my initial reaction was, “how is it possible that an offensive lineman in the NFL can be bullied to such an extent that he had to leave the team.
Then it occurred to me that anyone can bully anyone else no matter the size of the bully and the victim.

Both Incognito and Martin play on the offensive line for the Dolphins. Both are about the same size. Yet Incognito is accused of taunting Martin with racial epithets, threatening his family, and extorting money from him.

Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins late Sunday night for alleged mistreatment of second-year OL Jonathan Martin, a situation that has Miami in a state of turmoil and Incognito’s NFL career in serious jeopardy.

“He’s done,” a ranking club source told The Miami Herald Monday. “There are procedures in place and everyone wants to be fair. The NFL is involved. But from a club perspective he’ll never play another game here.”

Giants kicker Josh Brown said he knows the 30-year-old Incognito very well.

“None of it shocks me,” the kicker said. “I don’t know any details obviously. The league hasn’t released anything. But Richie seems to be a person with a tortured soul. He’s had these issues for quite awhile, and it’s sad.”

On Monday, several media outlets leaked the content of text messages and voicemails sent from Incognito to Martin that the NFL and Dolphins had already reviewed.

According to CBS Sports, Incognito referred to the biracial Martin as a “half-n------,” and he viciously threatened the 24-year-old, saying he’d hunt down members of his family.
ESPN reported that Incognito left a voice message to Martin in April of this year saying, “Hey, wassup, you half-n----- piece of s---. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. (I want to) s--- in your f---ing mouth. (I’m going to) slap your f---ing mouth. (I’m going to) slap your real mother across the face (laughter). F--- you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

ESPN also reported Sunday that Incognito coerced Martin into giving him $15,000 to finance a players’ trip to Vegas that Martin didn’t even attend.

Martin remained absent from Dolphins practice Monday one week after he suddenly left the team due to what it called emotional issues.

Before being suspended, Incognito said he wanted his name cleared and tweeted, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth,” quoting Buddha.

Incognito was voted to the Dolphins’ six-player leadership counsel this season, something that head coach Joe Philbin seemed to stand by Monday.

“The leadership counsel is selected by our players,” Philbin said. “He was selected by his teammates.”

The NFLPA and the Dolphins are looking into the matter, and the NFL said it was doing a “thorough review” of the issue. Philbin said he would do whatever was “necessary” to clean up the locker room if issues were revealed.

According to an ESPN story from several years ago, Incognito was often bullied as a youngster growing up in Englewood, N.J.

He was reportedly called a “fat-ass” and a “lard-ass” and a “whale,” a pattern that continued even after he moved to Arizona in 1995.

Brown said Incognito had “a lot of problems” at Nebraska, although Brown never termed any of the lineman’s actions “abusive.”

Brown didn’t recall any serious issues for Incognito with the Rams, but the lineman was released by St. Louis late in the 2009 season after having an altercation with then-coach Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants’ ex-defensive coordinator.

“It seems like this is something that has been haunting him for more than a decade,” Brown said. “He was always a very emotional player, very reactive. Obviously, I have a lot of assumptions in my head about what was going on (in Miami), and I’m probably going to be right.”

I’ll bet a good many football fans are shaking their heads wondering if the league’s gone soft. And, for that matter, if sports in general and our culture is headed that way as well.

You'll need to be watching every word you say else you be labeled a bully and suffer the consequences.

But in all of this, there needs to be a line.

And in my mind, Richie Incognito crossed it.