An investigation into harassment allegations made by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin has uncovered some troubling truths about the potentially dangerous bullying culture in the NFL’s locker rooms.
In November, Martin made headlines after having an “emotional breakdown” over a series of threatening texts, voicemails, and offensive hazing rituals he endured mostly at the hands of teammate Richie Incognito. Though initial reports suggested none of Martin’s harassment included the use of homophobic slurs, it led many to wonder about the potential struggle of an LGBT athlete in the locker room next season with Michael Sam about to find out.
An independent investigation was launched by the NFL immediately following Martin’s claims. The findings were announced today by defense lawyer Ted Wells, who concluded that three Miami Dolphins linemen including Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, “engaged in a pattern of harassment” that caused “significant emotional distress” and even led Martin to contemplate suicide. Incognito was labeled as the main instigator.
The report also found that homophobic harassment was directed toward another “young offensive lineman,” who has gone unnamed.
Deadspin reports the homophobic sexual harassment was condoned by coach Jim Turner, who allegedly also took part in the taunting :
Martin and other witnesses informed us that Player A was repeatedly called a “faggot” and subjected to other homophobic invective. Incognito stated that Player A, although not actually believed to be gay, was subject to these taunts repeatedly and persistently—he got it “every day from everybody, high frequency.” According to Incognito, Player A was a “good kid” and he “took it well,” never asking his teammates to stop.
Incognito and others acknowledged that Player A was routinely touched by Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey in a mockingly suggestive manner, including on his rear end, while being taunted about his supposed homosexuality. Incognito specifically admitted that he would grab Player A and ask for a hug as part of this “joke.”
Martin said that on one occasion, Pouncey physically restrained Player A and, in full view of other players, jokingly told Jerry to “come get some pussy,” and that Jerry responded by touching Player A’s buttocks in a way that simulated anal penetration. Pouncey and Jerry both denied this allegation. Given the seriousness of this allegation and the conflicting recollections, we decline to make any findings about this particular alleged incident.
The evidence shows that [Offensive Line Coach Jim Turner] overheard and participated in this behavior toward Player A. During the 2012 Christmas season, Coach Turner gave all of the offensive linemen gift bags that included a variety of stocking stuffers. In each gift bag except for Player A’s, Turner included a female “blow-up” doll; Player A’s bag included a male doll.
The report also claims that nobody “intended to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury,” an archaic excuse most often used by playground bullies who don’t understand that words actually do hurt.
Do you think the NFL has a handle on locker room bullies? Will this news shed light on the situation and make the environment safer for a future out player?