The NFL confirmed Monday that it plans to investigate a charge that former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito used a racial slur during Sunday’s playoff loss in Jacksonville, but thus far, the only witness to the alleged abuse tweeted that the matter is “BS.”
Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue triggered the latest controversy surrounding Incognito late Sunday by appearing to tweet that Incognito had used “weak racist slurs” during the Jaguars’ 10-3 victory. Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins, who plays right next to Incognito and like Ngakoue is African-American, wrote that if the slurs had been uttered, he would know and would not be afraid to stand up to Incognito.
On one hand, you have to wonder, with the Jaguars having just won a wild-card game and with a Sunday divisional playoff in Pittsburgh looming, why would Ngakoue start the controversy if he weren’t convinced he heard what he thought he heard?
On the other hand, Incognito has worked to rebuild his image since the 2013 Bullygate scandal that ended his Dolphins career. When the Bills took a flier on him after he sat out a season, it was only after he convinced them, in owner Terry Pegula’s Boca Raton office, that he had redeemed himself.
Incognito repaid the Bills by making the Pro Bowl all three seasons in Buffalo. Would Incognito be foolish enough to risk throwing it away by using slurs in the trenches?
Referring to Incognito by his jersey number, Ngakoue tweeted, “Great win today! And 64, you goin have to come harder than some weak racist slurs. I’m proud of my African heritage, as are 70% of the other Black players in this league. #Iaintjonathanmartin!”
Ngakoue could claim his tweet was a reference to Bullygate, not Sunday’s game, in which case he sense of timing is odd and his choice of wording even more strange.
Regardless, Dawkins fired back, writing, “Just for the world to know, everyone always tryna put some bad thing on @68INCOGNITO i was next to my guy the entire game and the entire season and believe me, if he was saying some racist stuff I would have been the first to let him know that was out of line. Cut The BS.”
Center Eric Wood, who plays on Incognito’s right, has not publicly commented.
The NFL did not confirm to The Post whether NFL Films had placed a microphone on any interior linemen for the Bills-Jaguars game, only that the league “will look into this.”
Following Bullygate, the NFL commissioned lawyer Ted Wells to investigate. His report concluded that Incognito directed slurs at teammate Jonathan Martin on more than one occasion “and it is undisputed that Incognito routinely used other racially derogatory language.”
But Wells wrestled with whether the slurs were caused by deep-seated racial resentment by Incognito.
“The role of race in this matter was difficult to resolve,” Wells wrote. “Martin told us that he believes that Incognito harassed him in part because Incognito was motivated by racial animus. Incognito claimed that he was never so motivated and that his language must be evaluated in the context of his unique friendship with Martin. We find the evidence on this question ambiguous and conflicting, and we decline to make a finding either way.”
But Wells did not absolve Incognito.
“We find that Incognito knew or should have known that calling Martin a (racial slur) was well out of bounds,” Wells wrote.
Late in the 2016 season, Dolphins reporters had their first chance to interview Incognito following Bullygate.
“I’m a pariah in the national media and basically turned radioactive there for a few months,” he said.
Incognito said Martin tried to contact him a few times but “I have nothing to say.”
Then-Bills coach Rex Ryan described Incognito as a model player, saying, “Every teammate respects him, and he’s earned that right. People in our community look up to Richie. Everybody loves him.”
Those in the Dolphins’ locker room offered similar defenses of Incognito amid the scandal. Player after player spoke out in support of Incognito. None supported Martin.
“To hear my guys say that and stick up for me, it was really special to me,” Incognito said.