Inquiry Says Incognito, 2 Others Harassed Martin
NEW YORK (AP) — Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was subjected to “a pattern of harassment” that included racist slurs and vicious sexual taunts about his mother and sister by three teammates, according to a report ordered by the NFL.
The report said Richie Incognito, who was suspended by the Dolphins in November, and fellow offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey harassed Martin. Another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer also routinely came under attack. Neither was identified in the report.
Lawyer Ted Wells released his 144-page report Friday.
Wells says his inquiry found Martin was taunted and ridiculed almost daily. After Martin left the team in October, Incognito boasted about “breaking Jmart” in a notebook the linemen used to tally fines and bonuses among themselves. When the investigation began, Incognito asked another player to destroy the book, but investigators obtained it.
The other harassed player was “subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching,” while the assistant trainer, who was born in Japan, was subjected to racial slurs.
“It was not difficult to conclude that the Assistant Trainer and Player A were harassed, but the questions raised in Martin’s case were more complex, nuanced and difficult,” the report says.
Although Wells concluded that Martin was abused by three teammates, he qualified some of the assertions in Martin’s account.
Evaluating Martin’s claims was difficult, “given his mental health issues, his possible heightened sensitivity to insults and his unusual, `bipolar’ friendship with Incognito,” the report said.
“Nonetheless, we ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator.”
In a statement emailed by a league spokesman, the NFL did not make any mention of possible punishment stemming from the case. Instead, the league confirmed that it had received Wells’ report, and said it appreciated the Dolphins’ cooperation with the investigation.
Wells said he does not intend to comment further.
The report comes about three months after Wells was retained by the league to investigate the case, which prompted a national debate about hazing and workplace bullying.
Martin told investigators Incognito joked that he and other teammates would rape Martin’s sister, a medical student none of them had ever met. Incognito also called Martin various racial slurs, made jokes about slavery and routinely demeaned Martin for not being “black enough.”
The report said Pouncey and Jerry followed Incognito’s lead.
“To a great extent, Incognito dictated the culture,” the report said. “We doubt that matters would have gotten so out of hand had Incognito not set a tone on the offensive line that made extremely vulgar taunting a typical form of communication.”
The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin abruptly left the team Oct. 28. He was briefly hospitalized and then joined his family in California and underwent counseling for emotional issues. Incognito was barred from the season’s last eight games.
Incognito expressed regrets about the racist and profane language he used with Martin, but said it stemmed from a culture of locker-room “brotherhood,” not bullying.
Martin has said he tried to be friends with Incognito. The two players traded more than a thousand text messages in a year’s span, and the teasing and vulgar banter went both ways, with references to sex, drugs, violence and bawdy behavior, often in a jocular tone.
According to the report, Martin was particularly offended over the three men talking openly in front of teammates about wanting to have sex with his sister.
The report said Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey repeatedly and persistently made graphic, sexually explicit comments about Martin’s sister.
Martin repeatedly blamed himself in text messages to his parents for not standing up to his teammates, saying he went out of his way to avoid confrontation. The report said Martin at one point he went into the bathroom of a yacht and cried after repeated racial slurs.
The report also found that Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands that featured a rising sun emblem on the anniversary of the 1941 attack that brought the U.S. into World War Two and jokingly threatened to harm the assistant trainer as retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor.
According to Martin, the assistant trainer confided in him that he was upset about the Pearl Harbor comments, finding them derogatory toward his heritage.
The NFL Players Association, which conducted its own investigation into what happened in Miami, but didn’t have the cooperation of Martin, issued a statement on Friday: “We have received the report on workplace conditions in Miami. We will review the findings closely, confer with our players and all relevant parties involved.”
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement: “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.”
Martin’s agent, Kenneth Zuckerman was both contacted by The Associated Press on Friday, but he asked for time to read the report in full before making comments.
Incognito attorney Mark Shamel released a statement later Friday disputing the report.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
The report also made mention of Martin having suicidal thoughts, which Incognito previously wrote about on Twitter.
“Whether or not Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey fully appreciated the effect of their actions on Martin, there is no doubt that, from Martin’s perspective, their actions were abusive and hurtful,” the report said. “We are not, however, in a position to evaluate Martin’s assertion that the abusive conduct of his teammates was, in fact, the exclusive triggering cause of his depression and contemplation of suicide. We lack the factual information necessary to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Martin’s mental health issues and their root causes.”
The report adds, “It was not practical for us to try to unravel the specific triggering causes of Martin’s onset of depression and suicidal thoughts.”
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