Now that Ted Wells' report on the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying saga has been released, it's hard to believe Incognito was so publicly confident during a Twitter rant on Wednesday.
Incognito said "the truth will set me free" and addressing Martin, "The truth is going to bury you and your entire 'camp'. You could have told the truth the entire time." Then the 144-page Wells Report was released Friday and, to say the least, it doesn't reflect very well on Incognito. Wells concludes that Incognito (and others) treated Martin (and others) so poorly and so persistently for such a long time that it led to Martin leaving the Dolphins.
The ordeal between the two men is complicated, and the report reflects that. Although the story has been documented in great detail before Friday, the independent investigation turned up a lot of important, interesting and uncovered issues. Here are 12 of the most compelling (and we have cleaned up the language, which the report did not ... the report can be viewed in full here):
1. Incognito wasn't the only one doing the harassing
Dolphins linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey should be happy Incognito was so over the top in his reported bad behavior. Incognito was suspended from the team and his NFL future (he's a free agent) is in limbo. But the report makes clear that Jerry and Pouncey also engaged in the same "pattern of harassment" as Incognito, joining in the same comments and actions that made Martin and others uncomfortable. Jerry and Pouncey will be footnotes to the story when all is said and done, but they don't come off looking very good either. Neither does offensive line coach Jim Turner. One wonders what the Dolphins will do with Pouncey, a talented center who is under contract for one more year. Jerry, like Incognito, is a free agent. It's impossible to imagine Jerry being back with the Dolphins.
2. Martin wasn't the only one getting harassed
One of the reasons the report reflects so poorly on Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey is it wasn't just Martin on the receiving end of their taunts. Another unidentified young offensive lineman is repeatedly mocked for being gay (although, Incognito said, the player wasn't believed to really be gay) including some inappropriate touching that came along with it. And then this, from the Wells Report:
"Dolphins’ Offensive Line Coach Jim Turner was aware of the running 'joke' that Player A was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting. 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."
Also, an assistant trainer who was born in Japan was subject to many racial jokes and slurs, and the Wells Report included this shocking scene:
"On December 7, 2012, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands that featured a rising sun emblem (which the Assistant Trainer had given them) and jokingly threatened to harm the Assistant Trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack. According to Martin, the Assistant Trainer confided in him that he was upset about the Pearl Harbor comments, finding them derogatory toward his heritage."
Hours after Martin left the team, the assistant trainer sent him a text that said, "Hey JM I understand how [y]ou feel man… They are relentless sometime…. Some day I wanna do exactly what you did today.”
3. Martin didn't think he could fight back
One of the popular questions when the story broke was why Martin, a 312-pound athlete, didn't fight back physically when he was bullied. The report said Martin thought it would make things worse. And remember, Incognito wasn't the only bully in the locker room.
"(H)e was not going to begin his professional football career by trying to punch out Incognito, one of the leaders of the offensive line, who had Jerry and Pouncey backing him up," the report said.
The report said he never told the Dolphins about the harassment, not wanting to be labeled as a snitch, although he sent messages to his parents during the offseason following the 2012 season that clearly show he was troubled by it. That Martin engaged in some of the vulgar language in conversations with Incognito is a classic case of wanting to fit in, in hopes the harassment stopped, the report concluded.
"According to our consulting expert, a psychologist who focuses on matters of workplace conduct, such a reaction is consistent with the behavior of a victim of abusive treatment," the report said.
4. Martin had a history of being bullied
"According to Martin, in middle school and high school he was the victim of bullying, which diminished his self-confidence and self-esteem and contributed to what he self-diagnosed as periodic bouts of depression during his teenage years," the Wells Report said.
He had no history of depression or suicidal thoughts during his four years at Stanford, which is relevant.
Martin wrote to his mother after his rookie season that he was "a push over, a people pleaser," and that was the source of his anxiety. He avoided confrontation. He blamed the "soft schools" he went to.
"I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward," Martin said to his mother, according to the report.
5. Martin considered suicide twice
Two times in 2013 Martin considered suicide, the report said. One instance came on Jan. 6 after some taunting messages from Incognito, which led him to believe that it wasn't simply rookie hazing, but the harassment would continue into his second season and beyond. He confided these suicidal thoughts to Incognito and one other teammate although he never mentioned the harassment by his teammates as a reason for feeling suicidal. That Incognito tweeted Wednesday that Martin confided that to him ("FACT: Jonathan Martin told me he thought about taking his own life in MAY 2013 b/c he wasn't playing well. Told me he felt worthless.") doesn't help Incognito's case that he's not a bully.
6. The fine book
The Dolphins kept a "fine book" and accumulated more than $35,000 in 2013 for a postseason vacation trip for the group. The fines were generally for small and stupid things like wearing ugly shoes – that isn't too uncommon in sports. One odd thing on the pages is that Pouncey was fined $100 for "subpeona by FBI," a reference to him being questioned about former college teammate Aaron Hernandez, who has been charged with murder.
Also in the fine book, Incognito fined himself $200 for “breaking Jmart," which Wells views as an admission that Incognito knew he was in the wrong. Incognito sent a message to teammates, “They’re going to suspend me Please destroy the fine book first thing in the morning," which Wells says also demonstrates Incognito was aware of his wrongdoing.
7. Inside the Las Vegas trip controversy
The largest addition to the fine book was a $10,000 fine to Martin for not going on a postseason Las Vegas trip, a highly publicized incident. Apparently, the Dolphins were "obviously joking" and did not expect Martin to pay, but he did with a check. Jerry didn't go on the trip either, was fined and simply refused to pay. Wells didn't see the fine as harassment, and for anyone who believes Martin simply didn't get the jokes or the locker room culture, this is probably their best example to point to.
8. Martin couldn't have returned to the Dolphins
According to the report, on Nov. 1 Incognito texted Martin, “I’m here for you my dude." Then hours later had this exchange with Pouncey, who like Martin is still under contract with the Dolphins (unlike the original report, we will edit the exchange for vulgarity):
Incognito: (expletive) Jmart That (expletive) is never [allowed] back
Pouncey: Bro I said the same thing I can’t even look at him the same he’s a (expletive)
Incognito: My agent just asked if we held mandatory strip club meetings Jmart is (expletive) ratting on everyone
Pouncey: Lol wow are you serious he is a (expletive) boy
Pouncey: He’s not welcome back bro I can’t be around that (expletive) guy
Incognito: (expletive) that guy if Ur not with [u]s Ur against us
Pouncey: No question bro he’s a coward for snitching
Incognito: Snitches get stitches Blood in blood out (expletive) guy
Pouncey: He’s dead to me
9. Coach Joe Philbin and the front office didn't know, and the Dolphins tried doing the right thing
The report says that coach Joe Philbin didn't know about the harassing, and since-fired general manager Jeff Ireland didn't either. Philbin confronted offensive line coach Jim Turner when details were being made public and told him that conduct “better not be happening.”
The report also says Philbin stressed respect among teammates in the locker room and the Dolphins distributed a conduct policy that prohibited harassment including “unwelcome contact; jokes, comments and antics; generalizations and put-downs.” Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey each signed a form saying they understood the policy.
10. The racial motivation is hard to figure out
Even the Wells Report has a hard time understanding what, if any, racial animus Incognito had towards Martin. Incognito is said to have used many racial slurs towards Martin, and there's a particularly bad series of text messages joking about shooting black people from Incognito to an unidentified former white Dolphins lineman.
Player B: Yes. That’s a solid optic made specifically for a .308 battle rifle
Incognito: Perfect for shooting black people
Player B: Lol exactly
Player B: Or Jeff Ireland
Martin was bothered by the racial comments. A line about him being a “stinky Pakistani” by Incognito (the report says he used that one on Martin often) during the day of Oct. 28, 2013 led to his outburst in the cafeteria and him leaving the team. Incognito is heard on an infamous voicemail using the n-word to Martin and reportedly said that to his face at a dinner as well. However, Incognito is not perceived as a racist in the Dolphins locker room. He says he would use racial terms in a joking manner. The report makes no finding on what role race had to do with the harassment, because it finds the evidence ambiguous and conflicting.
11. The use of homophobic language and actions in the locker room
One side note from the report is the homophobic language and actions that seemed to occur frequently in the Dolphins locker room, especially toward the unidentified offensive lineman identified as "Player A." It's especially noteworthy given the recent announcement by NFL draft prospect Michael Sam that he is gay. Here's what Wells wrote in his report:
"Just as the racial taunting of Martin is inexcusable, so, too, is the taunting of Player A on the basis of sexual orientation, regardless of whether or not he is, in fact, gay. Several NFL players have been vocal in promoting acceptance and integration of gay players into the league, and we believe that the NFL as an organization is committed to creating a safe environment in which a player can feel comfortable being open about his sexual orientation. With the recent announcement by Michael Sam, a defensive lineman from the University of Missouri who is expected to be selected in the 2014 NFL draft, that he is gay, it is even more urgent that a tolerant atmosphere exist throughout the league. The frequent use of homophobic insults undermines this goal."
12. Incognito and Martin had a very strange relationship
Obviously, Martin was not happy with what was happening to him in the locker room. He texted a friend last May a list of pros and cons of continuing football, well before he left the team:
-Football games are fun
-I can make a lot of money playing football and be set for life
-I have a legacy that will live after I die
-not many people get to live their childhood dream
-I am the left tackle for the Miami dolphins
-if I quit, I’ll be known as a quitter for the rest of my life
-my legacy at Stanford will be tarnished
-I will never be able to look any coach from my past in the eye
-I hate going in everyday.
-I am unable to socialize with my teammates in their crude manner
-I already have a lot of money. I could travel the world, get my degree. Then get a real job
-I could lose 70 lbs and feel good about my body
-I won’t die from CTE
-Maybe I’ll start to LIKE myself
-I don’t need to live lavishly. I could live very frugally
-why do I care about these people? All I need is my family.
But one can see why Incognito, no matter how foolish he was acting, was a bit blindsided by the fallout. In the report we see multiple instances of Incognito and Martin hanging out, and in many instances in which Martin is the one asking Incognito to go out. Players on the team said the two "seemed inseparable." The Wells Report sums it up well:
"Martin claimed that there was a 'good Richie' — his friend — and also a 'bad Richie' — his abuser. Plainly, their 'bipolar' friendship was complicated," the report said.
Martin told the story of Incognito, at a Christmas party, tackling him on a couch and punching him repeatedly. "Then 5 min later it was like nothing even happened and we went to the strip club," Martin explained in a text to a friend.
Incognito does have moments, indicated in the report, where he sends texts that seem genuinely caring towards Martin, and the two have many text message conversations like any friends would.
But it's very clear from the entire report that Martin was very distressed over his treatment in the locker room, whether or not Incognito had any clue that was the case.
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