The NFL’s “tough guy” locker room culture is under the microscope this week and all the typical “how-in-the-world-could-this-ever-happen!!!???,” overreacting media types outside of the sports world are weighing in.
While most will immediately dismiss New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle’s comments to WFAN sports radio Tuesday as ridiculous, there remains a segment of the population that believes it was up to Jonathan Martin, at some point, to stick up for himself when he was bullied by fellow lineman Richie Incognito. Particularly when his wallet come into play.
Here’s a transcript of Rolle’s interview with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN:
Benigno: Is this an issue in the NFL in your mind right now, [hazing] as a kind of right of passage?
Rolle: Is it an issue in the NFL? Absolutely not. I think this incident in its own, I think it has it’s own problem, it has it’s own spin on it, pretty much. I’m not sure exactly what has taken place down there. I do understand that once you get a hold of something it can have all kinds of twists and turns on it, so I’m not actually sure of what the actual thing was, but hazing is hazing. You’re gonna go through at the collegiate level, you’re going to go through it at the professional level. But once it gets beyond that point and once it becomes a personal thing, that’s when the problem seeps in. As players and teammates, it’s extremely important that you respect one another. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rookie, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 10-year vet or a 10-time Pro Bowler. Respect is a must within the locker room.
Roberts: Whether you were the veteran or the younger player, was there ever a time where it may have crossed the line?
Rolle: Absolutely not. I can’t say that I have been a part of it. To be honest with you, with my tenure here in the [NFL], I haven’t really been through much, even as a rookie. I think the most I’ve had to do is carry pads, pay for dinners. I got thrown in the cold tub once, twice, maybe three times. Other than that, it’s all about just holding your own and understanding that you’re gonna go through those things as a rookie. And, you know, as long as it’s not taken to a personal level, it’s fine and it’s accepted. But at the same time, when things get out of hand, as we’ve seen with things down in Miami, that’s when things need to take a different shift.
Benigno: You said that when you were a rookie you had to pay for dinners and these things. It’s come out now that apparently Martin had to pay $15,000 for some trip to Las Vegas for the team, he didn’t even go on the trip, he just basically paid it. If a situation like that happened with you, Antrel, would you just pay the money and say, that’s the end of it? To me, that kind of bothers me a little bit, especially with that amount of money being involved for a rookie.
Rolle: Well first of all, no, something like would never ever happen to someone like myself, because I wouldn’t allow it to happen. I think that’s something that people really need to understand and look at. Was Richie Incognito wrong? Absolutely, but I think the other guy is just as much to blame as Richie cause he allowed it to happen. And at this level, you’re a man. You know, you’re not a little boy. You’re not a freshman in college, you’re a man. There’s no way that another man is gonna make me pay for something that I choose not to pay for. Like when I was a rookie, I had to pay for a team dinner. It probably cost me, five-10 thousand dollars, but then again I was a first round pick so it was expected. But for this guy, supposedly he’s an undrafted guy [Editor’s note: Martin was actually a second round pick by the Dolphins in 2012]. For one – me being a veteran player – I’m not putting something of that expense on that player … Like I said, Richie Incognito, is he wrong? Absolutely. But I think the other guy is just as much to blame because he’s allowed it to happen.
Roberts: Do you think when he goes back into a locker room, he’s going to have issues because this is now public and he’s a part of why this became public?
Rolle: No, I don’t think he’s gonna have any issues. Because this football league is not built on men who bully other men. I think this is just an incident on its own. Hopefully he’s able to bounce back and recover from this and take awareness because, you know, you’re a grown ass man, you need to stand up for yourself. You know, there’s no punking that should be going on in the NFL. Hazing is one thing, bullying is another.