The NFL on Friday morning released its report on the investigation of the Dolphins’ locker-room culture.
The 140-page report, by independent investigator Ted Wells, looked into claims by Jonathan Martin that he was bullied by fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito and others on the team.
The report not only implicates Incognito in the bullying, but also notes the involvement of fellow Dolphins linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey in harassment.
Much of the misconduct, however, was directed at a player Wells describes as a young offensive lineman no longer with the Dolphins. It also cites ethnic slurs directed at an assistant trainer who was born in Japan.
Wells is critical of offensive line coach Jim Turner, who said he couldn’t recall many details that were corroborated by others amid the 100 interviews Wells conducted.
Wells writes that coach Joe Philbin had been unaware of the festering issues and would have intervened had they been called to his attention sooner.
“The contrast between the Dolphins’ formal anti-harassment policies and the reality of the Dolphins’ locker room is striking,” Wells writes. “ … There are lines — even in a football locker room — that should not be crossed, as they were here.”
Wells paints Martin as emotionally fragile and uncomfortable going to club officials with his concerns. Throughout the report, Wells wrestles to describe the unique relationship between Martin and Incognito.
“Martin claimed that there was a ‘good Richie’ — his friend — and also a ‘bad Richie’ — his abuser,” Wells wrote. “ … The interactions between Martin and Incognito could swerve, on a moment’s notice, from vulgar and aggressive to affectionate or even caring. And both of them recognized this.”
Wells wrote that on two occasions in 2013, Martin considered suicide. Wells said that Martin approved the release of this information.
As the controversy mushroomed, much of the focus was on a directive from former GM Jeff Ireland and former assistant GM Brian Gaine for Incognito to “toughen up” Martin. But Incognito told Wells he understood those instructions simply to mean he should work with Martin in the weight room, not treat him in a physically harsh manner, as has been widely speculated.
Wells wrote that Incognito’s contract contained a “one-strike” conduct clause that was unique — for the Dolphins — because of Incognito’s past indiscretions as a member of the St. Louis Rams. Still, Wells cites “two incidents of inappropriate behavior” within a 24-hour span at the Dolphins’ May 2012 charity golf tournament, which included Incognito using a golf club to touch a women’s genitals. The Dolphins fined Incognito $50,000 for that incident, which led Incognito to file a grievance against the club. Two months later, Incognito was summoned to a meeting with Roger Goodell in which the NFL commissioner threatened to invoke the league’s personal conduct policy to dish out “immediate disciplinary action.”
The report said “that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.
“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.
“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 concludes that the NFL needs new guidelines to prevent bullying and harassment of players:
“As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace. Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism.
“But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults.
“We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people.”
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross avoided commenting on the substance of the report.
“We have just received the report from Ted Wells and will review it in detail before responding relative to the findings,” he said in a statement Friday morning. “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.”