HANOVER, N.J. – On Felipe Martins' right wrist is a tattoo of two stick figures, one representing his wife and a smaller one holding a balloon which represents his 10-month-old son, Noah. He can point to this, he says, to show how important family is to him.
Which makes the accusations leveled against him by United States international and New England Revolution midfielder Jermaine Jones all the more painful for Martins.
The Red Bulls' Brazilian midfielder, in his first year with the team, was involved this past Saturday night in a post-game scuffle with Jones. After the match, Jones accused Martins of speaking in Portuguese and saying incendiary comments about his family and his wife during the game, won 2-1 by the Revolution.
Martins denies saying any such thing and says that if he had to speak to Jones about anything, it would be in English since he's assuming that Jones, a German-American, doesn't understand Portuguese. But even beyond that, he outlined on Tuesday afternoon that at no point did he make comments about Jones or his family.
“Jermaine Jones came up with this thing that said I spoke about his family. I was very, very mad. I'm a guy who loves to win, has a passion for this sport,” Martins told Metro. “I'm sometimes hard on the field, I fight to win but I'll never disrespect anyone with hard words about family. I'm a guy who has a family, a kid and a wife. I think he misunderstood me.”
He also noted that the referee from Saturday's match was Brazilian so he wouldn't try to get away with comments by speaking in his native Portuguese.
So far this year, Martins has been influential in the rise of the Red Bulls to the top half of the Eastern Conference and has formed a solid partnership in the midfield with Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty. He's been used in a holding midfield role alongside McCarty where the duo have been effective in winning balls and providing solid distribution.
Acquired in an offseason trade with the Montreal Impact, Martins has impressed with his work rate as well his tenacity, attributes that seemed to annoy Jones on Saturday night.
Martins texted Jones after the game to clear the air. He didn't like that his name or his reputation has been affected this way.
“He texted me back and said [that] I misunderstood you, I didn't understand what you were saying or maybe I heard something else or somebody else – [that] I'm sorry for that. [Those were] his words,” Martins said. “I just want that to be clear because I don't want to, first of all, be involved in this kind of stuff. Second, we play against each other but at the end [of the day] we are all players. We have to respect each other.”
To date, there has been no public retraction from Jones about the claims he levied in the media against Martins.
“Jermaine either misunderstood what Felipe said or he fabricated it," Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. "I know for a fact that Felipe never said anything about his family; even more so he's not that kind of person. Jermaine hasn't publicly retracted anything but I think he should. Frankly, I don't think Jermaine's behavior was upstanding and so for him to go publicly afterwards is the wrong thing to do. It's against player code and it's against really the level of decency.
“Unless you're absolutely certain that somebody said something, defaming somebody's character isn't the right thing to do.”