Executive Summary: Ted Wells has completed his investigation of Jonathan Martin's claim of bullying by the Miami Dolphins. It's an "oh my god" moment for the team. The dumb jock behavior by players is both worse and more widespread than reported. Here's the rapid reaction.
Incognito's put downs went beyond Jonathan Martin
Investigators found that three starting offensive linemen, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry engaged in a "pattern of harassment" directed against Martin and two others who were not named in the report. A second unidentified lineman was subjected to homophobic comments and improper touching. An assistant trainer, also unnamed in the report, was subjected to racially inflammatory insults. Martin was subjected to an unending series of yo' sister and momma jokes calculated to draw an emotional response.
Martin shared with investigators that he was victimized by bullies in school and how that affected his inability to cope with Incognito's taunts. Martin says that the depression he experienced in middle and high school returned while with the Dolphins and that it drove him on occasion to contemplate suicide.
Martin did not see physical confrontation of a teammate to be an option according to the report.
Lets just say that Martin's attempts to befriend his chief tormentor was an unsuccessful coping method in a vain attempt to make it stop. Instead, it seems to have triggered the players to compete to see who would be the first to draw an emotional response from Martin.
Investigators were not sure how to weigh Martin's emotional make-up to resist needling that would have been impervious to other players. Wells concluded that bullies seek out the vulnerable, which makes the behavior more objectionable.
Incognito put it in writing. (GASP) He kept a notebook of the informal, fines levied on players for trivial, often humorous, infections. He fined himself $200 for "breaking Jmart."
Incognito sought to have the smoking gun destroyed before it fell into the investigator's hands.
Spreading the joy
The Wells report referred to "Player A" in past tense as a player who was with the team (emphasis mine). Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry subjected that player with the f-bomb, even though he was not believed to be gay. He was also the butt of oral sex jokes and unwelcome touching on sensitive body parts.
Here's what's incredibly worse from an workplace stand point. A Dolphins executive, offensive line coach Jim Turner was aware of the running joke as an everyday occurrence and participated at least once. Incognito was also a team captain. Courts take a dim view of an entire organization when management is aware and fails to act.
Wells did conclude that head coach Joe Philbin was not aware of the harassment. That surely factored in owner Steve Ross' decision last January to keep him in place as he parted ways with GM Jeff Ireland.
A Japanese-born assistant trainer was targeted by Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry with derogatory name-calling, cited in the report as Jap, Chinaman and the c-word.
The trainer asked not to testify about his treatment citing his friendship with Incognito and fearing loss of trust by players. Wells found other evidence that the name-calling actually occurred and part of the pattern of offensive behavior.
Two words employers never want to hear in the same sentence, "workplace" and "bullying."
From the Wells report: The mistreatment of Martin is consistent with a case of workplace bullying.
Wells observed that the Incognito cabal's behavior went beyond even the loose bounds of an athletic locker room. Wells also concluded, however, that none of the players intended to cause Martin mental distress nor to drive Martin or Player A off the team. But, gosh darn it. it was so much fun to do.
The Dolphins have an anti-harassment policy that every 2013 player signed. That policy seems not to have been taken seriously by Incognito, Pouncey or Jerry, or by the team that did little to inform the players that they crossed a line and could be subject to serious sanctions.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross released a statement on the team's commitment to accountability and respect ... that was nowhere in evidence before.
Richie Incognito is clueless
Incognito considered all of his action as good-natured fun, and saw his targets as in on the joke. As team captain, he triggered supporting behavior by Pouncey and Jerry.
Media reports last November shortly after the story broke, quoted unnamed Dolphins players who considered Incognito as an honorary black man more so than Martin, who is bi-racial and from a well-to-do family. Those supporting statements ceased when someone told the players to wise up and shut up.
Wells rejected Incognito's notion that Martin was making up his accusations.
Incognito wrote a series of tweets on Wednesday that blasted Martin in a way that suggests he expected to be vindicated and that Martin would not.
Dear Jon Martin..... The truth is going to bury you and your entire "camp". You could have told the truth the entire time.— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 12, 2014
How on Earth could he reach that conclusion?
What now, NFL?
The NFL needs offensive linemen. Teams have signed players who have done worse, but Incognito is more toxic today, Friday, after his twitter stream than he was Monday.
Pleeeeease Stop The Hate. Happy Valentines Day :)— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 14, 2014
Incognito will land somewhere after spending time in the NFL penalty box.
The Wells report brought more notoriety for Mike Pouncey to live down. Pouncey wore a Free (Aaron) Hernandez baseball cap at his birthday party last summer in support of his Florida Gators teammate now charged for murder in Massachusetts.
Pouncey was called to testify in the case last December before a grand jury.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh endorsed Martin's prospects for a successful NFL career. Harbaugh was Martin's coach at Stanford. Martin is no more likely to play for Miami than Incognito.
There is a considerable case for harassment against the Dolphins and the NFL. The NFL does not lose Court cases often. I doubt this one will get that far.
Don't be surprised if Mr. Martin gets an honest shot with another team. That's a happier ending (for the NFL) than one of those confidential legal settlements with Martin that leaves questions unanswered..
The Wells report did not name Player A, so we cannot assess his talent or prospects to play. But the gay bashing directed to him is an awkward problem for the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that the NFL would welcome a gay player after NFL prospect Michael Sam revealed himself to be gay.
Wells' report could not have come at a better time for Sam. The NFL will monitor with laser-like precision how he is treated by teammates and coaches.
Note to all current and future NFL players: strongly-worded anti-gay workshops are in your future at team meetings and rookie symposiums. You will shake your head yes that gay players are welcome in the NFL workplace. The union will not stand behind you on this because ... workplace harassment is illegal even in pro sports.
To read the full text of the 144-page Wells Report, click here.
Please note that Hernandez and Pouncey were teammates with the Florida Gators, not the Miami Hurricanes. Also, please correct that the Mizzou player and NFL prospect that came out as gay is named Michael Sam, not "William" Sam.
@MarvinLewisMiracleWorker Meh. I hate when readers point out my errors and they turn out to be really there. Thanks. Fixed.
@SkinsHogHeaven No Problem. It was a really good article otherwise. Thanks!