By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The NFL's independent report on bullying in the Miami Dolphins' locker room has found that Richie Incognito and two teammates engaged in a pattern of harassment against the Dolphins' Jonathan Martin and two others.
The 144-page report (www.NFLDolphinsreport.com) by independent investigator Ted Wells was released on Friday and also named Miami players John Jerry and Mike Pouncey as offenders and said another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer were also targets.
Offensive tackle Martin voluntarily left the club in October and said afterwards that he had been subjected to harassment, which Wells said included racial slurs and sexual taunts about his mother and sister.
Fellow lineman Incognito was subsequently suspended by the team stemming from Martin's complaint.
"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," the report said.
The episode stirred debate across the United States about the "clubhouse culture" in the National Football League and put a spotlight on what is acceptable behavior in the workplace.
Wells recommended in his conclusion that the NFL adapt more clear-cut workplace rules, and found that inappropriate behavior in the Miami clubhouse went beyond the mistreatment of Martin.
An unnamed, Japanese-born assistant trainer was repeatedly the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language, the report said.
It said the other unnamed 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.
The National Football League said it would consider the findings of the report before determining any further action.
Martin's agent, Kenneth Zuckerman, said his client feels "vindicated" by the report and plans to resume his football career.
"He feels a great sense of relief," said Zuckerman, according to ESPN. "He loves football and is eager to get back on the field, regardless of what team he plays for."
Incognito's attorney, Mark Schamel, released a statement calling the report "replete with errors" and said that Martin "was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins' offensive line."
The NFL Players Association said it would "review the findings closely, confer with our players and all relevant parties involved."
Martin, 24, departed the Dolphins in late October, checking himself into a Florida hospital complaining of emotional distress before joining his family in California.
Shortly afterward, Martin's bullying allegations arose regarding Incognito after the surfacing of a voice mail in which the player used a racial slur and threatened violence toward Martin.
A lengthy list of text messages between Incognito and Martin later became public showing the two players traded more than a thousand messages in a year's span, marked by vulgar banter from each of them.
The Dolphins placed Martin on the non-football illness list in late November and he did not return to the field, although the former Stanford University standout has said he plans to come back to the NFL gridiron next season.
Incognito was suspended November 3 for conduct detrimental to the team and missed the rest of the 2013 season.
In a Twitter rant on Wednesday, Incognito insisted that Martin had not told the truth and insisted he would be found innocent by the investigation.
"The report rejects any suggestion that Martin manufactured claims of abuse after the fact to cover up an impetuous decision to leave the team," Wells's report said.
"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," the report said.
Wells said NFL workplace rules should be reexamined.
"As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace," he wrote in the conclusion. "Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism.
"But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults.
"We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross promised a careful review of the report.
"We have just received the report from Ted Wells and will review it in detail before responding relative to the findings.
"As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another."
Despite the controversy, Miami remained competitive during the season and the Dolphins were in commanding position to claim a wild card berth in the playoffs until losing their last two games by an aggregate 39-7 to miss the postseason at 8-8.
There has already been fallout from the scandal with team general manager Jeff Ireland agreeing after the season to depart after six years in the job.
Ireland's exit came one day after offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was dismissed by the team.
Coach Joe Philbin remains with the team.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Steve Ginsburg and Gene Cherry)
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Jonathan Martin
- Richie Incognito
- Mike Pouncey