A 19 year old woman was shot and killed on a front porch in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. The twist in the story: she arrived on the porch, with a dead cell phone, seeking assistance at 1:30am. The homeowner has stated that he thought she was breaking in…and that the 12 gauge shotgun accidentally discharged. Sound familiar? And now…the autopsy reveals that Renisha McBride was shot in the face, causing her death. Accidental discharge the face? Investigation is ongoing, but to me, the writing on the wall says Stand Your Ground will be heavily featured in the decisions made going forward…stay tuned…. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/autopsy-detroit-woman-19-shot-face-porch
Richie Incognito is not so incognito these days. Instead of receiving attention for his plays on the field, his career is possibly over due to his bullying of a teammate. Incognito is alleged to have made racist comments to Jonathan Martin, a fellow teammate on the Miami Dolphins, and bullying him to the point that Martin left the team. Ironically, Incognito appeared in a Dolphins public service announcement that is played at home games, asking fans to behave in a “civilized” manner, and not be unruly during games.
It seems crazy. Martin is 6’5”, 312 pounds, and Incognito is 6’3”, 319 pounds. One would think the two players, trained to hit hard on the field, would just fight it out in the locker room and call it a day. However, it went deeper than that. Incognito was part of a group of veteran players, who hazed Martin, including forcing him to pay for them to go on a trip to Vegas, to a tune of $25,000. They played childish pranks on him, such as inviting him to sit with the group for a meal, then getting up and leaving him alone when he sat down at the table.
And then there were the racial comments. Incognito, who is white, called Martin “half a n—“, (Martin is biracial) and threatened his family. Not to mention the ultimate sin…talking about Martin’s mother. These threats were made in voicemails as well as text messages. As a result, now there is even talk of charging Incognito with a federal hate crime. Under federal statutes resulting from the Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful to intimidate, or threaten someone because of their race and participation in a protected activity (such as voting, participation in a state or federally funded program).
Keep in mind, we watch football for fun; for the players, it’s their workplace. The same workplace rules apply in football as compared to any other field of work. However, the NFL workplace is a very different animal. The aspect that is making this case unique is that of the “locker room” culture. Men are encouraged to be hard on each other emotionally, whack each other’s backsides with towels, and be macho guys. As fans, we admire as well as reward their toughness on the field; however, there is no way to force players to turn that toughness off when they exit the field.
Also remember that Jonathan Martin is a rookie, having joined the team in the 2012 NFL draft from Stanford University. He’s young (age 24), at a new job, and is now being pushed around by veteran teammates. He wants to fit in; but how much is enough? Martin was viewed as vulnerable by the senior players, as well as possibly the coaching staff. Clearly, Martin took all he could until he suffered an emotional breakdown. No one wants to be harassed at work. Bullying turns a dream job into a living nightmare.
I doubt Richie Incognito will be federally prosecuted; unless the Dolphins receive state or federal funding, it will be a stretch to find a link that would give Martin protection under the federal hate crime statutes. Secondly, there may be too much professional backlash for Martin, who has been traumatized to the point of taking a break from football and going to his home city for therapy. Without a cooperative victim, the case would be short lived. Lastly, from the tone of the transcripts released of the texts/voice messages, it may be difficult to show that the statements were more than Incognito being an obnoxious bully. There may be an argument to be made for some sort of stalking charge; but again, it would be weak at best. New reports have surfaced that the Dolphins coaching staff may have egged Incognito on, encouraging him to “toughen Martin up”. If that is the case, there may be a viable civil lawsuit. Coaches need to look at what kind of environment they are creating, and act accordingly.
Should Incognito be prosecuted? No.
Blacklisted from NFL? Everyone deserves a second chance. If he issues an apology, comes out publicly against racism and bullying, and stops acting like an idiot, there may be some redemption in a season or two. His PR agent has a lot of work in the years ahead.
Melba Pearson is an attorney, writer, speaker, wife and Resident Legal Diva. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.
So as I mentioned earlier this week, NYPD’s controversial “Stop And Frisk” policy got a reprieve due to an appellate courts scathing review of the trial judge in the lawsuit. Here is my latest article on the topic, published on theLaw.tv. Feel free to leave your comments below!
Breaking news, federal appeals judges issue a stay of the changes a trial judge ordered the NYPD to make back in August. They bashed Judge Scheindlin for not acting properly as a judge. Updates to come, but see my original article from theLaw.tv about the controversial policy…
A Hairy Situation: Can You Be Fired For Your Hair?
This week, stories emerged about a woman who is in danger of losing her job at an insurance company for wearing dreadlocks. In a related story several months ago, a little girl was sent home from school for wearing dreadlocks. The common theme in both of these stories? The powers that be deemed the hairstyle to be somehow distracting or unacceptable.
Ashley Davis, from Missouri, was told that due to a change in company policy, she would have to cut her dreadlocks. She was hired with dreadlocks, but several months after her employment, the company policy changed to say that “dreadlocks, braids, mohawks, mullets and other hairstyles are against company guidelines”.
7 year old Tiana Parker was forced to leave her school due to their ban on dreadlocks. The school’s policy stated that “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” Her situation is different, since the policy was in place at the time of her enrollment. Still, this is a reflection of a refusal to accept a hairstyle of a particular culture.
To give some perspective, removing your dreadlocks is not a simple process. As Ms. Davis stated in her interviews, she had been growing her dreadlocks for over 10 years, and it is a part of her identity. Additionally, due to the permanent nature of the hairstyle, it would basically require her to shave her head, and regrow her hair.
From a legal perspective, there are several issues in Ms. Davis’ case. The company hired her, then subsequently changed their policy; in light of this, a grandfather – type clause should have been applied, in which current employees would be exempt. Can the company’s policy be considered to be racially discriminatory? Yes and no. Yes, because it is clear that hairstyles that apply to a certain ethnicity (dreadlocks and braids are generally worn by persons of African descent) are targeted by the policy. However, on the other side, the policy also targets mohawks and mullets. Interestingly, mullets and mohawks are not usually worn by folks seeking to work in corporate America. It had its day when the song “Achey Breaky Heart” was popular, but not so anymore. So to be practical, the wording of this policy directly targets persons of color…but is cleverly worded to avoid discrimination claims. A good lawyer wrote this policy; but a good lawyer may be able to bring the policy down.
On a day to day level, these policies are a result of ignorance, fear, and a tinge of racism. There is a perception that dreadlocks = drug dealer, hoodlum, or filth. This is simply not true. Dreadlocks have a long history, and quite bluntly, is an easier hairstyle to maintain as opposed to putting a myriad of chemicals in your hair on a regular basis (which is the other option to create the look of straight hair). As an attorney, I choose to wear my hair in dreadlocks. I try serious cases, including homicide cases. Depending on the occasion or trial, I wear my hair in a bun, or a tight ponytail. What style your hair is in should not matter as long as it is clean, maintained, and professionally styled for the environment you work in.
Can you be fired for your hair? Yes.
Should Ashley Davis sue her employer? Absolutely.
Will she win? Maybe not. But it is the principle…and a way to open employers’ minds.
Weigh in below and tell me what you think!
Melba Pearson is an attorney, writer, speaker, wife and Resident Legal Diva.