The Wells Report was recently released and it details the treatment former Dolphin player Jonathan Martin suffered at the hands of teammate, Richie Incognito. For weeks there has been so much back and forth and contradictory statements that the truth was lost in it all. But with the release of the 144-page report there is no longer any doubt what really went on in that Dolphins locker room. The Wells Report shines a light on the abuse that Martin endured and the out of control culture that allowed it to happen.
The harassment and bullying by Incognito and others was above and beyond even the boundaries of an NFL locker room. It should be noted that an NFL locker room is unlike any workplace environment that the average American will ever encounter. The behavior can be highly aggressive, with much more profanity and inappropriate comments than you would come across in a rowdy bar on a Friday night. Imagine being at a typical office job and a co-worker walks up to someone and calls him or her a racially derogatory name and then proceeds to make sexually explicit comments about that co-worker’s sister. This is what Martin encountered on a regular basis.
Well, why not go to H.R? That would be a typical response in a typical work place. The report illustrates Martin, who stands 6-5 and weighs 312 pounds, as feeling powerless against his teammates. This self-perception would be one of the main factors on why Martin may have put up with the negative behavior for so long. It is strange, but the light that the Wells Report has shined on the workplace abuse of Martin can lead to long lasting changes in the NFL.
What we have heard from current and former NFL players is that joking and hazing are apart of the culture of the NFL and that Martin is just “too sensitive.” The full report has some re-evaluating their stance on this issue.
The report even details the strange relationship that Martin and Incognito shared. The report details text messages Martin sent to a friend where Martin used that word “bipolar” because Incognito seemed to be Martin’s friend one moment and then would switch and torment Martin mercilessly.
Many have pointed out that the Dolphins case is a unique situation and that every NFL locker is not the same. They point out that the Dolphins locker room is an isolated incident. That’s most likely true, but there is sure to be wide sweeping changes to the entire league.
The Wells Report puts the spotlight on Football Commissioner Roger Goodell. In the past Goodell has shown himself to be a firm but fair disciplinarian. He has had his personal conduct policy tested several times since he has taken over. This is the latest incident, but it is one that is set to change the internal workings of how an NFL team operates.
What Goodell must get across to each team is that an NFL locker room is indeed a workplace. The rampant frat like environment is a thing of the past. It’s a new day. Many former and current players will say that the culture of the locker room needs to be preserved, but at what cost? Looking at the aftermath of the Martin case, the culture needs to evolve.
If teams establish true accountability then there should be no problem holding on to the positive aspects of the locker room and then allowing the dark side to disappear. The last thing the NFL needs is “another” Wells Report shining a light on “another” Martin-like abuse victim.
Editorial by Tony Bowers
New York Times