Blowback

Two stories returned to the news recently. Both surprised me in different ways.

Richie Incognito, the Miami Dolphins football player accused of bullying fellow player Jonathan Martin, broke his silence recently to talk about a series of incidents that Martin deemed offensive and harassing.

David Cornwell, Martin’s attorney, said in a statement, that his client “endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments.”

Incognito’s version of events is somewhat different.

In an interview with FOX Sports reporter Jay Glazer, Incognito said, “You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most. And they will undoubtedly tell you, me. Jon never showed signs that football was getting to him, um, the locker room was getting to him.

“His side has clearly said, ‘We do know.’ OK, and there’s bullying involved,” Glazer said. “There was a voice message left. I’m going to read it to you: ‘Hey, what’s up, you half N-word piece of blank. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. Want to blank in your blank mouth. I’m going to slap your blank mouth. Going to slap your real mother across the face. (Laughter) You’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.’ You hear that, going back to that now, do you look at that and say, ‘I leftthat for Jonathan Martin?’ ”

“When I see that voicemail,” Incognito said, “…I’m embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate, it’s vulgar. It’s, it’s not right. When the words are put in the context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised, but people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another.

Glazer then asked, “How do you expect anybody in America to believe you’re not a racist?”

“I’m not a racist,” the Dolphins lineman said. “And to judge me by that one word is wrong. In no way, shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word, even if it’s friend to friend on a voicemail. I regret that,” Incognito added.

Glazer asked, “How much in today’s locker room is it thrown around by African Americans and white players?”

“It’s thrown around a lot. It’s a word that I’ve heard Jon use a lot. Not saying it’s right for when I did it in the voicemail, but there’s a lot of colorful words thrown around the locker room that we don’t use in everyday life. The fact of the matter remains, though, that that voicemail was left on a private voicemail for my friend, and it was a joke.”

While the NFL is continuing their investigation into the alleged bullying by Incognito, he has turned over phone records showing 1,142 texts between him and Martin in the past year.

What surprises me are two things. First, the utter casualness with which Incognito talks about what is clearly wrong-headed behavior. Second, and perhaps more alarming, is the fact that other players or coaches permitted such behavior to go on. Clearly, others must’ve have witnessed some or all of the alleged behavior.

Bottom line: Whether it takes place inside or outside a locker room, bullying, harassment, hazing, is wrong. Coaches need to teach it. Players need to live by it, and owners need to insist on better standards. Teamwork is not something that only shows up on the field. It should pervade the entire organization from the top down.

The second story concerns 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan’s recent apology regarding inaccurate information given in an interview by Dylan Davies about events in Benghazi.

No sooner had the reporter given two on-air apologies – the first last Friday on CBS This Morning, the second on Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes – than the media attacks on the news department’s integrity began.

As The New York Times reported (Nov. 11), “The apology lasted only 90 seconds and revealed nothing new about why CBS had trusted Mr. Davies, who appeared on the program under the pseudonym Morgan Jones. Off-camera, CBS executives were left to wonder how viewers would react to the exceptionally rare correction.

“While veteran television journalists spent the weekend debating whether the now-discredited Benghazi report would cause long-term damage to the esteemed newsmagazine’s brand, some media critics joined the liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America in calling for CBS to initiate an independent investigation of missteps in the reporting process.

“But the CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes, has not ordered an investigation, and on Sunday a spokesman indicated that the program was going to let its televised apology be its last word on the issue. However, the apology was deemed inadequate by a wide range of commentators on Sunday night. Craig Silverman, of the correction blog Regret the Error, predicted that it would not ‘take the heat off CBS News.’ ”

While Sunday’s apology did not go into details regarding the process by which Davies was vetted for the program, Logan covered much of this on the Friday edition of CBS This Morning with a lively Q&A from anchors Norah O’Donnell and Jeff Glor.

Frankly, I’m surprised at the blowback Logan and CBS received in light of the fact that they came forward as soon as the truth was known and made two on-air corrections.

Having said that, I believe 60 Minutes has an opportunity to regain credibility by turning the incident into an investigative story of its own. Have Logan along with an independent journalist go, step by step, through their vetting process on the story to see where they failed and/or how they were duped by Davies. More importantly, demonstrate to the audience how they will alter the process to prevent future inaccuracies.

For my money, 60 Minutes remains the gold standard for accuracy and integrity in reporting. They demonstrated both by stepping forward as quickly as possible and pointing out their error. The task now is to prove to their audience how they reinforce that trust by examining their own standards.

 

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