After a disturbing report regarding bullying on the NFL Miami Dolphins became public yesterday, the team released a statement saying they needed time to evaluate the evidence before any actions are made. Lawyer Ted Wells was appointed by the NFL to investigate perceived bullying between teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. What he found was considered to be both shameful and embarrassing to the reputation of both the NFL and the Miami Dolphins. Wells discovered that Incognito, along with two other teammates, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry, provided unrelenting harassment to Martin, an assistant trainer and a younger offensive linesman on the team. The report also states that Jim Turner, offensive line coach, was aware of the bullying and occasionally joined in. On one occasion he was reported to have given female blow up dolls to all of the team players except the younger offensive linesman, to whom he gave a male doll.
The 148 page-report states that Martin in particular was bullied almost daily and subjected to racial and homophobic slurs from Incognito. Martin’s family was also the target of harassment with Incognito making vulgar sexual comments to Martin about his mother and sister. It was reported on more than one occasion that Martin was bullied for showing signs of depression, which worsened after episodes of bullying. The investigation was initiated by the NFL after Martin left the Miami Dolphins abruptly this past October to seek treatment for emotional distress. A month later, Incognito was suspended from the team and reports surfaced of inter-teammate bullying. There were some claims Martin fabricated the bullying as an excuse but after a thorough evaluation, it was found that he was not lying.
Incognito was found to be the main perpetrator, often setting the volatile tone in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room as it evolved to harassment. In his defense, Incognito claimed that the bullying was just regular locker room “brotherhood” camaraderie that was sent back and forth between himself and Martin. He later tweeted an angry warning presumably for Martin saying “the truth is going to bury you.” After evaluating evidence in the form of emails and text messages Martin sent to his family, it was concluded that the relationship between Martin and Incognito was not one of innocent locker room companionship, but instead it was found to be of harassment and bullying, Martin being the victim. The report included a list Martin sent to a teammate of pros and cons of quitting the team; some of the cons listed stated that he hated going to practice every day and that he was unable to socialize with his teammates in the crude way they interacted with him. He also said that if he quit, he may start to like himself. Wells used these as examples of how Martin’s teammates affected his emotional state, making him feel self-conscious and isolated.
In their statement, the Miami Dolphins described the team’s stance on the report stating “we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another.” There is likely to be repercussions but the team needs time to evaluate how severely Incognito, Poncey, Jerry and Turner will be disciplined for the bullying.
By Lian Morrison