Wells report supports Martin's claims of harassment by Dolphins teammates
FEB 14, 2014 11:03a ET
Ted Wells released a 148-page document of his three-month investigation into alleged bullying by Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Friday morning and concluded that Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey "engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer."
Wells, a prominent New York attorney whose notable clients include Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, was hired by the NFL in November to investigate after offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team Oct. 28.
The report notes Martin has mental health problems, self confidence issues that date back to high school and a heightened sensitivity to insults. Martin said he was a victim of bullying in middle and high school but not at Stanford, where he was a star lineman before leaving school early an entering the 2012 NFL draft. Wells also acknowledged that on two occasions during 2013, Martin admitted to contemplating suicide.
"The mistreatment of Martin fits, to some extent, the classic pattern for workplace bullying," Wells wrote in his report. "Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey were in superior positions to Martin within the Dolphins organization; he was a rookie in 2012. They appear to have regarded Martin and the others they mistreated as different, weaker or unlikely to fight back, and deliberately subjected them to aggression over a significant period of time, including abusive language uttered in a manner calculated to lead to humiliation in front of others.
“In a number of ways, Martin fits the mold of a typical bullying victim: hesitant to challenge others, perhaps socially awkward (at least in his own eyes) and different from the others ...”
"In a number of ways, Martin fits the mold of a typical bullying victim: hesitant to challenge others, perhaps socially awkward (at least in his own eyes) and different from the others because of his upper-middle-class upbringing and intellectual interests. He responded to abuse by blaming and distrusting himself, falling into what appears to have been serious depression. He did not report the harassment because he feared that doing so would further ostracize him from the offensive line group."
In a press release, Wells stated that the investigation received the full cooperation from the NFL, the National Football League Players Association and the Miami Dolphins. Investigators reviewed thousands of voluntarily produced documents, including text messages, emails and team policies, and completed more than 100 interviews, including interviews of all Dolphins players and coaches, key front office personnel, and the team's owner and chairman.
"The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching; and that 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."
Martin left the team in late October, and Incognito was suspended indefinitely Nov. 3 (the suspension was lifted on Feb. 4).
It was on Nov. 3, that Incognito texted Pouncey and other linemen to destroy a book of "kangaroo court" fines. The fines are usually for things like being late for a meeting or failing to bring candy or other trivial offenses. But Incognito wrote down a $200 fine for himself for "breaking Jmart" and penalized for Martin "acting like a (expletive)."
Most of the fines in the book ranged from $10 to $500, but Martin was fined $10,000 for not attending a January 2013 trip to Las Vegas with other Dolphins offensive linemen. Martin initially didn't want to pay, but later did. Incognito claimed that they were joking about such a large fine, which was substantially more than any of the others in the book. Jerry was also fined $10k, but unlike Martin, he refused to pay the fine.
Incognito's actions in trying to destroy the book indicated to Wells that he knew his conduct was improper.
It was around the time of the Las Vegas trip, which he never intended to go on, that Martin contemplated suicide after an exchange of texts featuring vulgar insults from Incognito.
Martin said in a recent interview with NBC Sports NFL analyst Tony Dungy that he felt the bullying was persistent and that he saw no evidence that it would stop. Martin had hoped that the bullying would end after his rookie season.
Martin told Dungy that his sister was often referenced by Incognito, and the investigation backed up that claim. (The linemen never met Martin's sister.) The report graphically details sexually explicit comments by teammates about Martin's sister. Often the actions and comments were made in public in what Wells believes was "an effort to humiliate."
Martin also was weighing the pros and cons of quitting football, texting a friend about how conflicted he was. While asserting that the games are fun and that he can make a lot of money while living out his childhood dream, he also said he would "hate going in everyday" and was not able "to socialize with my teammates in their crude manner."
While Martin had said that not one incident pushed him to leave the team, the report states that he reached his breaking point in the team's cafeteria on Oct. 28. After being mocked during the day, Martin arrived in the cafeteria for dinner and attempted to join the offensive linemen. At Incognito's urging, the linemen got up and walked away when Martin tried to sit with them.
"For Martin, the cafeteria incident was the last straw," the report said. "He slammed his tray of food on the floor and left the Dolphins facility."
While Wells acknowledges that it seemed "erratic" for Martin to leave at the point he did, he does not think that Martin "cracked under the pressure of playing in the NFL," which Incognito believes to be the case.
"Mr. Wells' NFL report is replete with errors," said Incognito's attorney, Mark Schamel, in a statement Friday afternoon. "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."
Wells noted the existence of information related to alleged drug use, but said further inquiries were out of the scope of his investigation.
"The Report concludes that the harassment by Martin's teammates was a contributing factor in his decision to leave the team, but also finds that Martin's teammates did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury," Wells said.
Martin did say in an exchange of texts with Incognito that "I don't blame you guys at all." When asked by investigators about the text, Martin said that he blamed himself for leaving the team and that he should have stopped his teammates' behavior. Martin has since seen a counselor who has told him not to shoulder the blame.
Incognito told investigators that he and Martin were close friends, and a number of those interviewed said that the two "seemed inseparable." He stated that he never knew Martin was troubled by the bullying and that if he had it would have stopped.
The portrait of Incognito showed two sides. He was described in the report both as a friend, leader, hard worker and great teammate but also as boisterous, inappropriate, crazy and vulgar.
Backup offensive lineman Nate Garner told investigators he was also the subject of bullying and "that he was probably treated worse than Martin."
The report also mentioned an unnamed Dolphins offensive lineman, referencing him as "Player A." The investigation revealed that Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey frequently taunted the player with homophobic insults, though Incognito claimed that he didn't think the player was actually gay.
Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner reportedly overheard some of the abuse of Player A, but he denied the claim. Wells, however, did not find him credible as that on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting. As a Christmas gift, Turner gave female blow-up dolls to all of the offensive linemen except for Player A, to whom he gave a male blow-up doll.
"Martin further said that he was offended that Turner had endorsed the humiliating treatment of Player A by participating in it," the report stated.
The investigation found that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was not aware of the bullying. Martin said he did not want to be portrayed as a snitch for doing so, although the report states that he should have gone to Philbin. The Dolphins coach was praised in the report for repeatedly reminding players to be respectful.
“We are convinced that had Coach Philbin learned of the underlying misconduct, he would have intervened promptly to ensure that Martin and others were treated with dignity.”
"We are convinced that had Coach Philbin learned of the underlying misconduct, he would have intervened promptly to ensure that Martin and others were treated with dignity," the report states.
When Philbin later learned of the offensive line's fine book, and the excessive fine for the Las Vegas trip, he was incensed.
Two former Dolphins executives, general manager Jeff Ireland and assistant GM Brian Gaine, had directed Incognito to make Martin physically tougher and stronger. But Incognito said he felt it was in reference to the need for Martin to be stronger in the weight room and not related to any hazing as had been portrayed in media report.
An assistant trainer, who was born in Japan, was also found to be the frequent recipient of persistent harassment. The players directed derogatory racial words to them. Kevin O'Neill, the Dolphins' head trainer, overheard the comments but never intervened, and the report states that he "expressed hostility" toward the investigation.
The Miami Dolphins released a statement Friday morning and said the team would comment further upon reviewing the Wells report.
"We have just received the report from Ted Wells and will review it in detail before responding relative to the findings," the team said in a statement on its website. "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 complete report is publicly available at www.NFLDolphinsreport.com.