When Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin left the team in November because he said he was being bullied by guard Richie Incognito, the NFL appointed big-name attorney Ted Wells to run an independent investigation into the team.
Writes Wells' team: "We find that the Assistant Trainer repeatedly was targeted with racial slurs and other racially derogatory language. 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."
You can read the full report here.
According to Wells, the three antagonists signed a Dolphins workplace conduct policy agreement in 2013 in which harrassment was defined as "unwelcome contact; jokes, comments and antics; generalizations and put-downs."
Wrote Wells: "Guided by this policy, 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."
Incognito's lawyer, Mark Schamel, blasted Wells' report in a statement released to media:
"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."
As thousands of text messages that were recently leaked to the media seem to show, it appeared that Incognito and Martin were buddies who frequently were in contact and just as frequently put each other down. The report concluded that the two had an "odd but seemingly close" friendship.
While Incognito claimed it was all one big joke, Martin -- who also claimed he had been bullied in middle school and high school -- said he engaged in an attempt to fit in. Wells' team consulted with a psychologist, who said that Martin's response was consistent "with the behavior of a victim of abusive treatment.
"To be candid, we struggled with how to evaluate Martin's claims of harassment given his mental health issues, his possible heightened sensitivity to insults and his unusual, 'bipolar' friendship with Incognito. Nonetheless, 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.
"In reaching this conclusion, we were significantly influenced by multiple factors, including the flagrantly inappropriate treatment of the Assistant Trainer and Player A, which, independent of Martin's claims, reflected a pattern of harassment. Moreover, shortly after Martin left the team, Incognito made a number of telling entries in a notebook used to keep track of 'fines' the offensive linemen imposed on each other in their 'kangaroo court' (typically for trivial infractions such as arriving late to meetings). 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."
In regards to the team leadership, Wells writes that Incognito and the others might not have been told they were crossing any kind of line. Which leads to this question.
How did Joe Philbin not know what was going on inside his team?— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 14, 2014
Martin told investigators that he was most offended when his teammates vulgarly referred to his family members, most notably sexual comments made against his sister. Then, after Martin's mother attended a team event last April, the teammates began making similar comments about her.
Incognito didn't dispute Martin's comments that the statements that were made, and he said he often was trying to "get under the skin" of someone he was insulting. But to Incognito, this was "an accepted part of the everyday camaraderie of the Dolphins tight-knit offensive line." Incognito said all the linemen "recognized, accepted, and, indeed, actively participated in 'go-for-the-jugular' teasing and that the sexual comments "helped them bond."
Basically, Wells' investigators led to this conclusion:
"We find that the harassment of Martin bears many hallmarks of a classic case of bullying, where persons who are in a position of power harass the less powerful. It may seem odd to some that Martin, a professional football player with imposing physical stature, could be described as a victim of bullying or harassment, but even big, strong athletes are not immune from vulnerability to abusive behavior."
Said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in a statement: “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 NFLPA said: "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.”
Follow Josh Katzowitz on Google+