In the past week there has been no shortage of voices entering the conversation over Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. A lot of that conversation has hinged on whether Richie Incognito is a racist. He has come forward to state that he is, in fact, not a racist and has been supported by his teammates on this point.
Whether Incognito’s actions exemplify a culture of insidious racism at work in professional sports is another matter from the issue that these athletes are members of and participants in a cult of “man” that defines masculinity as its ability to assert brutish force and obstinance.
While the NFL has a problem with recognizing its injuries, not the least of which are the underappreciated but now more discussed concussions its players suffer, a misguided conception of masculinity is one that is sorely under discussed.
In fact, such a discussion is still unlikely to occur while individuals are questioning whether Martin reacted to the situation poorly by allowing it to come to the public’s attention. Instead, such things (read: racism and bullying) are supposed to be handled behind closed doors where, evidently, they are not handled at all.
Rather than questioning the manliness of Martin’s actions, which are arguably quite courageous, perhaps it is time that the NFL and the teams that comprise it take a look in the mirror, question whether they are man enough to come to grips with the real challenges they face, and recognize that masculinity is an important concept, one that is defined by more than an ability to ignore your wounds.