Investigation: Incognito bullied, harassed Martin
NFL investigator Ted Wells concluded in his investigation of the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal that guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry, and center Mike Pouncey bullied and harassed offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, another young Dolphins lineman and an assistant trainer.
Wells' findings were released Friday. He began his investigation Nov. 6 after being hired by commissioner Roger Goodell to look into the Dolphins' workplace environment.
The story broke after Martin left the Dolphins on Oct. 28, in which he claimed he was harassed by Incognito and others on the team. Incognito was later suspended.
Wells, co-chair of the Litigation Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, led the investigation. The law firm said in a press release that it reviewed thousands of voluntarily-produced documents, including text messages, emails and team policies, and interviewed more than 100 witnesses, including Dolphins players, coaches, key front office personnel, and owner Stephen Ross.
"The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching; and that 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," Wells said in a statement.
"The Report rejects any suggestion that Martin manufactured claims of abuse after the fact to cover up an impetuous decision to leave the team. Contemporaneous text messages that Martin sent to his parents and others months before he left the Dolphins -- which have never before been made public -- corroborate his account that the persistent harassment by his teammates caused him significant emotional distress.
"The Report concludes that the harassment by Martin's teammates was a contributing factor in his decision to leave the team, but also finds that Martin's teammates did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury."
The report also claims that offensive line coach Jim Turner was an active participant in the harassment of a player.
"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 read. "Around Christmas 2012, Coach Turner gave the offensive linemen gift bags that included a variety of stocking stuffers. The gifts included inflatable female dolls for all of the offensive linemen except Player A, who received a male 'blow-up' doll. Martin and another player reported that they were surprised Coach Turner did this; Martin further said that he was offended that Turner had endorsed the humiliating treatment of Player A by participating in it.
"Incognito and others agreed that this incident with Coach Turner occurred. When interviewed, Turner was asked if he gave Player A a male blow-up doll. He replied, 'I can't remember.' "
Ross responded to the findings in a statement released Friday night, saying the situation must never happen again.
"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," Ross said. "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."
The NFL responded to the report with a statement, which read: "Our office has received the report of independent counsel Ted Wells, which sets forth the findings of his investigation into the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins. Consistent with our commitment at the outset of this matter, the full report has been transmitted to our clubs and has been made public. We appreciate the work of Ted Wells and his colleagues and the cooperation of the Miami Dolphins organization in the investigation.
"After we have had an opportunity to review the report, we will have further comment as appropriate."
The NFL Players Association said it will carefully study the report and meet with the players to discuss it.
"We have received the report on workplace conditions in Miami," the union said in a statement. "We will review the findings closely, confer with our players and all relevant parties involved."
Incognito's lawyer, Mark Schamel, claimed in a statement issued to ProFootballTalk.com that the report is "replete with errors."
"Mr. Wells' NFL report is replete with errors," Schamel said in the statement. "The facts do not support a conclusion thatJonathan 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."
Martin's agent, Kenny Zuckerman, said Friday that Martin plans to play in the NFL in 2014, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
"Jon called me on Wednesday, said he '(Martin) can't wait to play again. I'll play anywhere for anyone,'" Zuckerman told Rapoport. Zuckerman said that Martin has "taken the necessary steps to get back on the field."
Incognito had said a lot through his Twitter account this week, but he did not say anything in response to the Wells report until late Friday afternoon, when he Tweeted, according to ProFootballTalk,com, "Pleeeeease Stop The Hate. Happy Valentines Day :)"