© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Report: 'Pattern Of Harassment' Led Dolphins Player To Quit

Then-Miami Dolphins Richie Incognito (left) and Jonathan Martin before Martin's departure.
Bill Feig
Then-Miami Dolphins Richie Incognito (left) and Jonathan Martin before Martin's departure.

"Three starters on the Dolphins offensive line — 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," according to a report released Friday. That word comes from investigators hired by the NFL to look into what led to Martin's abrupt departure from the Miami Dolphins team last October.

The Miami Herald adds that the investigators, led by attorney Ted Wells, reject "any suggestion that Martin manufactured claims of abuse after the fact to cover up his true reason for leaving the team."

Wells' report says the investigators found that:

"The assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that 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 and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments."

Incognito, who was suspended by the Dolphins after Martin left the team, has previously said that "my actions were coming from a place of love. ... No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that's how we communicate, that's how our friendship was, and those are the facts and that's what I'm accountable for."

The report, which includes some very graphic language taken from text messages and voice mails made by Incognito to Martin, says that Incognito "can fairly be described as the main instigator" while Jerry and Pouncey "tended to follow Incognito's lead."

According to the report:

"Incognito does not dispute saying or writing any of the statements that Martin claimed offended him. Further, Incognito admitted that at times the very purpose of the verbal taunts was to 'get under the skin' of another person.

"From Incognito's perspective, however, the statements in question were an accepted part of the everyday camaraderie of the Dolphins tight-knit offensive line. Incognito told us that Martin (and other offensive linemen) all recognized, accepted and, indeed, actively participated in 'go-for-the-jugular' teasing, and that vulgarity and graphic sexual comments were not only a staple of their locker-room culture but also helped them bond.

"In contrast, Jerry downplayed his role in making vulgar comments about Martin's family, and Pouncey denied making or hearing any such remarks. We do not find Jerry and Pouncey credible on these points, largely because both Martin and Incognito, plus other witnesses, agree that these words were in fact said to Martin."

The investigators also conclude that offensive line coach Jim Turner and assistant offensive line coach Chris Mosley "were certainly aware of some of the insulting comments directed to Martin by Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey, although we cannot determine the full extent of that awareness and whether they had any appreciation of how hurtful this language was to Martin." The coaches "never sought to stop the behavior," the report states.

Mosley left the Dolphins last October, before Martin quit the team.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has released this statement:

"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."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.