NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed New York attorney Ted Wells to conduct an independent investigation into the Miami Dolphins in the wake of harassment allegations against suspended blocker Richie Incognito.
Incognito, an offensive guard, allegedly used racist language and repeated threats to bully fellow blocker Jonathan Martin, his neighbor on the offensive line. Martin left the team in the wake of a lunch room incident last week. Incognito was suspended indefinitely last Sunday.
“Under league policy, all employees have the right to a workplace free of any form of harassment,” Goodell said. “We are fully committed to an appropriate working environment for all NFL personnel.”
Wells will prepare a report on the Dolphins workplace for Goodell that will be made public when submitted, though he has no specific timetable to complete the probe, Goodell said.
“He will ensure that we have all the facts so that we can address this matter constructively,” Goodell said. “Ted Wells will have full authority to investigate as he deems appropriate. He is on the job as of today and will undertake to complete his work as promptly as possible.”
Wells has recently looked into allegations of sexual misconduct by a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach and wrongdoing by NBA players’ union officials.
“I am pleased to accept this appointment,” Wells said. “My task is to assemble the facts and present my findings to the commissioner. I will do so fairly and comprehensively so that commissioner Goodell can address this matter properly. I will begin my work immediately and report my findings to the commissioner as soon as practical.”
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin vowed full cooperation from the organization.
“If the review reveals anything that needs to be corrected we will take all necessary measures to fix it to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Philbin said.
A notion that Incognito might have been critical of Martin to toughen him at the request of coaches or other team leaders was disputed by Philbin and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the man Martin and Incognito are charged with protecting from opposing pass rushers on the football field.
“I didn’t call anybody soft,” Philbin said. “Coaches are responsible to help players reach their potential. They do that in a number of ways.”
Tannehill said the players are coming to grips with the criticism they hear about a locker room out of control with racist remarks and threats, saying it does not resemble the work environment he sees daily.
“To be put in the situation where everybody says we have no leadership and the locker room is a bad place, it’s really tough for us to sit here and hear all that when we’ve got each other’s backs,” he said.
“A lot of it is catching us off guard,” the quarterback continued.
“This stuff being thrown out, we didn’t know it was going on in front of us. Both guys have their rights and wrongs. If both guys chose to come back, I’m big on forgiveness. I’m big on moving on. I don’t judge a guy for any situation he’s in.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]