NFL Investigation Finds Martin Harassed By 3 Starting Fins Linemen
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The National Football League’s independent investigation of the Miami Dolphins, Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin was released Friday with a finding that three starters on the offensive line “engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman.”
The Wells Report analyzed text messages, emails, league and club policies and procedures, player scouting, medical, and security files, legal and scholarly materials, news articles, commentary, HBO’s 2012 Hard Knocks series, and first-person interviews.
The specific linemen mentioned in the report were: guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry along with center Mike Pouncey. But the Ted Wells report also found that a second young offensive lineman, named Player A, was also harassed as well as a member of the training staff, named assistant trainer.
“We find that the Assistant Trainer repeatedly was targeted with racial slurs and other racially derogatory language,” the report stated. “Player A frequently was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching. Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments.”
“We ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator, and by Jerry and Pouncey, who tended to follow Incognito’s lead,” the report stated.
When it comes to Martin’s relationship with Incognito, the Wells report said, “As an initial matter, Martin developed an odd but seemingly close friendship with Incognito.” The report continued saying that according to a consulting expert (Dr. William H. Berman), “a psychologist who focuses on matters of workplace conduct, such a reaction is consistent with the behavior of a victim of abusive treatment.”
Martin and Incognito described their relationship as “bipolar.”
The Wells report stated that Martin said, “in middle school and high school he was the victim of bullying, which diminished his self-confidence and self-esteem and contributed to what he self-diagnosed as periodic bouts of depression during his teenage years.”
Martin told Wells that the depression recurred as a result of mistreatment by his teammates on the Dolphins and that at two points in 2013, “he even contemplated suicide.”
The report found that Incognito had a notebook to keep track of “fines” offensive linemen imposed on each other.
In the notebook the Wells report stated,
“Incognito recorded a $200 fine against himself for “breaking Jmart,” awarded another lineman who had been verbally taunted a $250 bonus for “not cracking first,” and wrote down a number of penalties against Martin for acting like a “pussy.” The evidence shows, and Incognito did not dispute, that “breaking Jmart” meant causing Martin to have an emotional reaction in response to taunting. Approximately one week after Martin left the team, on November 3, 2013, Incognito wrote nearly identical text messages to Pouncey and another lineman: “They’re going to suspend me Please destroy the fine book first thing in the morning.” We view Incognito’s entries in the fine book about “breaking Jmart” and his attempt to destroy the fine book—which was unsuccessful—as evidence demonstrating his awareness that he had engaged in improper conduct toward Martin.”
However, despite all of the evidence the Wells investigation uncovered, “although Incognito, Jerry, and Pouncey verbally harassed Martin, we find that they did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury.”
The Wells Report faulted the Dolphins for not telling the players they were crossing the line and called the entire situation “unprecedented.”
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross released a statement shortly after the release of the report that stated, ““We have just received the report from Ted Wells and will review it in detail before responding relative to the findings. When we asked the NFL to conduct this independent review, we felt it was important to take a step back and thoroughly research these serious allegations. As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another.”
The NFL Players Association also commented saying, “We received the report on workplace conditions in Miami today. We will review the findings closely, confer with our players and all relevant parties involved.”
Richie Incognito’s attorney Mark Schamel released this statement:
“Mr. Wells’ NFL report is replete with errors. The facts do not support a conclusion that Jonathan Martin’s mental health, drug use, or on field performance issues were related to the treatment by his teammates. It is disappointing that Mr. Wells would have gotten it so wrong, but not surprising. The truth, as reported by the Dolphins players and as shown by the evidence, is that Jonathan Martin was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins Offensive line. We are analyzing the entire report and will release a thorough analysis as soon as it is ready.”
Friday afternoon, Richie Incognito tweeted for the first time since the report was released.
According to the Wells Report, four typical examples of the types of insults made orally, according to Martin, are:
- “We are going to run train on your sister. She loves me. I’m going to *expletive* her without a condom and *expletive* in her *expletive*.”
- “Hey Jmart’s sister is in town. Get the plastic sheets ready, she’s a squirter.”
- “I’m going to bang the *expletive* out of her and spit on her and treat her like *expletive*.”
- “Hear your sister has a *expletive*. A fat, hairy *expletive*.”
The report further stated that the trio of Incognito, Jerry, and Pouncey would simulate having sex with his sister during warm-up exercises and mocked his mother after she attended a team event in April 2013.
One item that hasn’t been widely reported contained on page 63 of the report is that Incognito met with Commissioner Roger Goodell in July 2012 and warned to keep his future behavior inside the personal conduct policy or risk “immediate disciplinary action.”
The meeting with Goodell came after the May 2012 incident when Incognito allegedly “engaged in two incidents of inappropriate behavior at a Dolphins’ charity golf tournament within the span of less than 24 hours.”
Later in the report an unnamed player told the Wells investigators, “Incognito was ‘ a good player, but he is kind of a disease; he divides the locker room…[Incognito] is the kind of guy who has to be the alpha male.”
When it comes to Incognito’s text messages that seemed to indicate he was genuinely worried about Martin’s well-being, the Wells Report found faults with that as well.
According to the report, just hours after Incognito wrote that he was “here for you my dude” to Martin, Incognito texted the following with Pouncey:
Incognito: *Expletive* Jmart that *expletive* is never [allowed] back
Pouncey: Bro I said the same thing I can’t even look at him the same he’s a *expletive*
Incognito: My agent just asked if we held mandatory strip club meetings Jmart is *expletive* ranting on everyone
Pouncey: Lol wow are you serious he is a *expletive* boy
Pouncey: He’s not welcome back bro I can’t be around that *expletive* guy
Incognito: *Expletive* that guy if Ur not with [u[s Ur against us
Pouncey: No question bro he’s a coward for snitching
Incognito: Snitches get stitches blood in blood out *expletive* guy
Pouncey: He’s dead to me
In addition to Martin, a separate offensive lineman, named Player A was “quiet and unassuming” and was frequently taunted by Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey as a “fag or a faggot in a demeaning tone and repeatedly accused of “sucking *expletive*.”
Damaging to the Dolphins was that offensive line coach Jim Turner, “was aware of the running ‘joke’ that Player A was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting.”
The report also found that when it came to the assistant trainer, the group of players directed “racially derogatory terms toward him including ‘Jap’ and Chinaman’.” The Wells Report also found that “a number of Dolphins employees saw how the Assistant trainer was humiliated but did not intervene, including his supervisor, head trainer Kevin O’Neill, who allegedly even laughed at some of the racial insults.”
When it comes to Martin’s future in football, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said Martin could have a successful career in the NFL and that, “It appears that Martin was up to the challenge of dealing with physical or verbal intimidation by opposing players during NFL games, but fell victim, at least in part, to persistent taunting from his own teammates.”
The report stated directly that despite the culture of the offensive line, “does not excuse the mistreatment of Martin.”
“Ultimately, however, while the freewheeling, “anything goes” atmosphere characterized much of the Dolphins offensive line culture may be a factor in explaining what happened to Martin, it does not justify it,” the report found.
One factor that plays in the team’s favor though is on page 37 the report states, “Martin admitted he never told anyone in the Dolphins organization his teammates were harassing him.” The report said there was an offensive line prohibition of this called “the Judas code” which came with fines for snitching.”
The report states that offensive line coach Jim Turner knew about the Judas concept and had discussed it with his team and that a former assistant coach claimed “Turner actually introduced the Judas concept to the offensive linemen.”
When it comes to coaches, “We find that Head Coach Joe Philbin was not aware of the mistreatment,” and that “had Coach Philbin learned of the underlying misconduct, he would have intervened promptly to ensure that Martin and others were treated with dignity.”
Going back to Turner, “we find that Coaches Turner and Mosely were certainly aware of some of the insulting comments directed to Martin by Incognito, Jerry, and Pouncey, although we cannot determine the full extent of that awareness and whether they had any appreciation of how hurtful this language was to Martin. It is undisputed that these coaches never sought to stop the behavior.”
The report found that Turner texted Martin several times to get him to put out a public statement to quell the problems surrounding the team and the locker room after the offensive lineman left the team and told his coach he couldn’t make a statement.
Still, the report stated that the Dolphins’ plan to improve the workplace conditions “are commendable” especially with regards to the independent advisory group including Don Shula, Tony Dungy, and others.
The report’s analysis concluded with the following passage:
“The behavior that occurred here was harmful to the players, the team and the league. It was inconsistent with a civilized workplace—even in a professional football league and even among tough football players whose very profession is defined by physical and mental domination of players across the line of scrimmage. There are lines—even in a football locker room—that should not be crossed, as they were here. We leave the determination of precisely where to draw those lines to those who spend their lives playing, coaching and managing the game of professional football.”
Friday evening, Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross released this statement regarding Wells’ report:
“Today, I received the final report from NFL independent counsel Ted Wells and have now reviewed it. I want to first thank Commissioner Roger Goodell for granting our request to have an independent review on this matter. I also want to thank Ted Wells and his team, who conducted a thorough, professional and objective review.
“I now have had a chance to read the report and obviously, the language that was used and the behavior as described is deeply disturbing. Although the report commended Joe Philbin’s commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization, I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report. We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. It is important to me, important to Coach Philbin and important to the entire Dolphins organization.
“We are committed to a positive workplace environment where everyone treats each other with respect. We have reviewed our Code of Conduct and workplace policies and are making enhancements to the areas of sports psychology, human resources and player engagement functions which serve as safe outlets for any player or employee.
“When these allegations first came to light, I wanted to know what happened so we could make our organization better. I also began a deliberative and comprehensive process of determining what I could do to elevate conduct in sports, regardless of the then-unknown conclusions of Ted Wells’ report.
“Three months ago, I announced the creation of a committee comprised of Coach Philbin, our CEO Tom Garfinkel, and respected former players and coaches, who would review Ted Wells’ report and our current Code of Conduct and make any further recommendations. Now that the report has been made available to us, the committee can move forward and begin discussions.
“After the situation came to light, I approached the New York University School of Law and the New York University Center for Sports and Society led by Arthur Miller, as well as the Jackie Robinson Foundation on ideas to address my concerns about conduct in sports. I wanted to tackle these challenging issues head on and be a driving force for change not only with the Dolphins, but in all levels of athletics. In working with their research team and lawyers, and with the cooperation of New York University Dean of Law and former White House associate counsel Trevor Morrison in particular, we have researched, debated and consulted dozens of experts and have created a series of initiatives that we will release next week, along with a policy paper examining this issue.
“We seek to create a curriculum which emphasizes accountability and which educates athletes on a standard code of conduct, appropriate use of language, and the elimination of disrespectful and unacceptable behavior in sports, including discrimination or harassment because of race, gender or sexual orientation. We are also exploring possible legislation and a conduct pledge that would be instituted in all organized sports throughout the country to elevate the core value of respect.
“I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again. We are committed to address this issue forcefully and to take a leadership role in establishing a standard that will be a benchmark in all of sports.”