Three Miami Dolphins players repeatedly harassed teammates and a Japanese-born assistant trainer, according to an independent investigation into bullying allegations and workplace misconduct released Friday by the National Football League.
The 144-page report by Ted Wells, ordered by the league after the scandal erupted last November, found offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey directed intimidating behavoir at Jonathan Martin and others, including racial insults at the trainer.
Martin left the team late last October and later claimed Incognito bullied him with threats of violence and voicemails that included racial slurs.
Incognito was suspended in early November and neither blocker played again last season for the Dolphins, who struggled to an 8-8 finish and missed the NFL playoffs.
“Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator,” the report said. “To a great extent, Incognito dictated the culture. We doubt that matters would have gotten so out of hand had Incognito not set a tone on the offensive line that made extremely vulgar taunting a typical form of communication.”
A profanity-filled text message exchange between Incognito and Pouncey after Martin went public with his remarks was included in the report, including insults to Martin from both men, with Pouncey calling Martin a coward among other things and Incognito replying: “Snitches get stitches Blood in blood out.”
Pouncey and Jerry admitted to racist and ethnic insults directed at the assistant trainer, repeatedly tormenting him in locker rooms with such words as “Jap” and “Chinaman.”
Martin said players had called the assistant trainer a “dirty communist” and a “North Korean.”
“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,” Wells said in a statement.
Martin, whose father is black and whose mother is white, did not make up the situation to cover for a desire to quit the team, Wells said.
“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 said. “Persistent harassment by his teammates caused him significant emotional distress.
“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 the Dolphins assistant trainer pleaded not to be asked certain questions and claimed that he and Incognito were friends and that he was never insulted.
But the investigator said an e-mail to Martin just after the lineman left the club indicated he had been truly offended by Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey.
“Hey JM I understand how u feel man… They are relentless sometime…. Some day I wanna do exactly what you did today,” the assistant trainer’s e-mail to Martin said.
Both the NFL and its players union released statements saying they had received the report but neither offered reaction. The Dolphins said they will not offer a statement until having time to review the entire report.
“After we have had an opportunity to review the report, we will have further comment as appropriate,” an NFL statement said.
“We will review the findings closely, confer with our players and all relevant parties involved,” the NFL Players Association said.