Report on Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga: History of ‘persistent bullying, harassment and ridicule’ within Dolphins
Perhaps the most complex dynamic of the story is the relationship between Incognito and Martin. As Incognito said in his November interview with Glazer, “I think if you would ask Jonn Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would say, Richie Incognito. The first guy to stand up for Jonathan when anything went down on the field, any kind of tussle, Richie was the first guy there. When they wanted to hang out outside of football, who was together? Richie and Jonathan.”
But that kind of friendship could easily have been Martin’s way of coping. The Wells report stated clearly that what happened in Miami was consistent with workplace harassment, and quite frequently in any harassment situation, the harassed party will try to find way to “get along to go along” because there is no other option if one wants to retain one’s position in an organization.
The man who was allegedly directly responsible for whatever edicts Incognito was given to “toughen Martin up” was offensive line coach Jim Turner, who looks absolutely horrible — borderline unemployable — in the report.
“Turner was aware of the running ‘joke’ that Player A was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting,” the report states. “Around Christmas 2012, Coach Turner gave the offensive linemen gift bags that included a variety of stocking stuffers. The gifts included inflatable female dolls for all of the offensive linemen except Player A, who received a male ‘blow-up’ doll. Martin and another player reported that they were surprised Coach Turner did this; Martin further said that he was offended that Turner had endorsed the humiliating treatment of Player A by participating in it. Incognito and others agreed that this incident with Coach Turner occurred. When interviewed, Turner was asked if he gave Player A a male blow-up doll. He replied, ‘I can’t remember.’ We do not believe that Turner forgot this incident, which many others recalled.”
And in meetings, when offensive linemen were berated for missing assignments, and opined that a teammate might be responsible for an offensive play that went wrong, Turner would term that player as a “Judas.” As the report states, “We accept that the fear of being labeled a ‘snitch’ or a ‘Judas’ played a role in Martin’s decision not to report abuse from his teammates. Martin believed that going to his coaches or other authority figures meant risking ostracism or even retaliation from his fellow linemen.
“At the same time, we strongly believe that if Martin had reported the harassment to a coach or front office executive (or even his agent), the team may have been able to address his issues before it was too late. There is no question that the better course of action would have been for Martin to report the abuse. We also agree with the view, expressed by many of Martin’s teammates, that it would have been preferable for Martin’s grievances to be handled inside the Dolphins organization rather than played out in the national news media.”
No doubt this would have been preferable for all involved. But it’s clear that Martin felt that he had no friends in the organization — not only because he was harassed, but because he witnessed the harassment of others. The harassment of “Player A” has already been detailed, but the treatment of the team employee — an Asian-American assistant trainer — was particularly unseemly.
“On December 7, 2012 (the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor), Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands that featured a rising sun emblem and jokingly threatened to harm the Assistant Trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack. Martin reported that the Assistant Trainer confided to him that he was upset about the Pearl Harbor prank, finding it derogatory and demeaning.
“Jerry and Pouncey each admitted that they repeatedly used racial language toward the Assistant Trainer—including calling him a ‘Jap’ and a ‘Chinaman’—and acknowledged their Pearl Harbor Day stunt.”
Martin told Wells that until this happened, he had never seen flagrant racial taunting. The trainer’s response — to laugh uneasily at the actions of Incognito and others — may have added to Martin’s belief that the only way to deal with this was to try and work through it the best way he knew how. But Martin, a sensitive individual prone to introspection, was in no way equipped to handle such things without some sort of help. And for whatever reason, Martin did not believe that he would receive that help from anyone in the organization.
“According to Martin, he told Turner that he had anxiety about football in a general sense, but he intentionally did not tell Turner that he was depressed because of the treatment by his teammates and his inability to confront them, which he viewed as a personal flaw. When we asked Martin why he had not disclosed his view that he was being harassed by some of his teammates, Martin told us that his reluctance to talk about his teammates’ conduct stemmed from what he perceived to be a ‘code’ in professional football that a player should not ‘snitch’ on his teammates.”
Turner exacerbated this situation on Nov. 2 when he sent messages to Martin, basically insisting that he lie on Incognito’s behalf. From the report:
November 2, 2013:
Turner: Richie incognito is getting hammered on national TV. This is not right. You could put an end to all the rumors with a simple statement. DO THE RIGHT THING. NOW.
Martin: Coach. I want to put out a statement. Believe me I do. This thing has become such a huge story somehow. But I’ve been advised not to… And I’m not supposed to text anyone either cuz last time I responded to a teammate (Richie) I was intentionally manipulated and the conversation was immediately forwarded to a reporter.
Turner: He is protecting himself. He has been beat up for 4 days. Put an end to this. You are a grown man. Do the right thing
Turner: John I want the best for you and your health but make a statement and take the heat off Richie and the lockerroom. This isn’t right.
November 3, 2013:
Turner: I know you are a man of character. Where is it?
November 6, 2013:
Turner: It is never to (sic) late to do the right thing!
“Turner sent these text messages to Martin knowing that Martin had hospitalized himself in connection with a mental health condition, and in the face of public reports indicating that Martin’s emotional condition may have been a reaction to his teammates’ bullying and abusive behavior,” the report states.
Head coach Joe Philbin has stated repeatedly that he knew nothing of the conduct going on in his own locker room. The report states that Philbin became worried about Martin only after Martin didn’t turn up. He paced the sidelines during practice, asking repeatedly for updates on Martin’s whereabouts, and visited Martin in the hospital after Martin texted his mother, coaches Philbin and Turner, and the assistant trainer, to let them know that he was alright, but in a local hospital. And while it seems incomprehensible that a head coach could not know about such things going on right under his nose for so long, it’s actually fairly common for players to create a space away from their coaches. And that space is usually the locker room.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who runs about as positive and functional a program as can be run in the NFL at this point in time, told me last November that he felt relatively comfortable and confident that he would know if this was happening in his locker room… but there was an element of uncertainty in what he said.
“I have asked. I just asked around to make sure that everything is okay, and we haven’t had any issues about that because that can be the case. I think we’re in really good shape, and I said, ‘I’m going to go up there and talk to these guys today.’ I want my information to be right. I want to make sure, is there anything going on that I don’t know about? As far as I can tell from the people that I’ve talked to, I think we’re in really good shape that way. It’s never been an issue, and that didn’t happen in college either. I just don’t like it; I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
The Dolphins’ response to the Wells report was simple.
“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 Dolphins may have been committed to a nebulous concept of accountability and respect, but it’s clear from the evidence presented that the franchise had no earthly idea how to put those ideas into practice. Now, we await the ramifications, in all kinds of ways.