New York - When you see 300-pound offensive linemen engaged in hand-to-hand combat with defensive linemen on the line of scrimmage you don’t consider them pushovers.
It requires a tremendous amount of strength and toughness to hold your ground in the middle of those skirmishes.
Jonathan Martin, at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, is a physically strong man. He had to be to perform his job. But he was not mentally strong enough to withstand two years of harassment from his fellow Miami Dolphins offensive linemen, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry, according to a report released by the NFL on Friday.
The report was compiled by independent counsel Ted Wells, who was hired by the NFL to investigate Martin’s claims of workplace harassment by Incognito in the Miami Dolphins locker room.
The 144-page report details two years of almost daily torment by Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry against Martin, another unnamed player, and an assistant trainer which included verbal abuse, racially offensive text messages, homophobic taunts and even a physical assault where Incognito held Martin down and punched him in the body and the head.
“We ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can be fairly described as the main instigator,’’ the Wells report concluded.
The report vindicated Martin and discredits Incognito, who tried to portray his treatment of Martin as a way to toughen up a rookie. The report paints Martin in a sympathetic light as a sensitive man who could not stand up to the bullying and tried to blunt it by going along with it. The report included a poignant text message that Martin sent to his parents in April 2013 in which he wrote:
“I figured out a major source of my anxiety. I'm a push over, a people pleaser. I avoid confrontation whenever I can, I always want everyone to like me. I let people talk about me, say anything to my face, and I just take it, laugh it off, even when I know they are intentionally trying to disrespect me. I mostly blame the soft schools I went to, which fostered within me a feeling that I'm a huge pussy, as I never got into fights. I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward. Most people in that situation are witty & quick with sarcastic replies, I never have been. I'm awkward around people a lot of the time because I simply don't know how to act around them . . .’’
Martin reached his breaking point midway through last season and left the team on Oct. 28. Shortly afterwards Incognito was suspended for the final eight games, while the NFL investigated the matter.
According to a report on ESPN.com, Martin's agent, Kenneth Zuckerman, said his client feels "vindicated" by the report and plans to resume his football career.
"He feels a great sense of relief," Zuckerman said. "Jonathan Martin is a great man and he's only shown me that he is very honest since the day I met him. He loves football and is eager to get back on the field, regardless of what team he plays for."
Incognito's attorney, Mark Schamel, released a statement calling Wells' report "replete with errors" and said that Martin "was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins' offensive line."
Miami Coach John Philbin, who claimed he wasn’t aware of the harassment, was cleared in the report. Apparently Philbin never ducked his head into the locker room when the Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry were hurling insults at Martin. But Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner didn’t fare so well. He was implicated as being complicit with Incognito in harassing another member of the offensive line, who was not named in the report.
NFL locker rooms aren’t known for their civility. Rude, crude and lewd behavior occurs on a regular basis and rookie hazing is a rite of passage. But it shouldn’t be a hostile environment where a member of the team is afraid to come to work and shouldn’t have to leave work so sad and depressed that he just wants to go home and pull the covers over his head.
You can blame Martin for not doing a better job of sticking up for himself, but judging from that text message to his parents he isn’t wired that way. The blame here should be placed squarely on Incognito’s broad shoulders and laid at the door of the offensive coordinator who knew about the torment Incognito was dishing out.
The NFL is waiting to review the report before deciding what, if any, punishment will be handed out. You can be sure that Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry will come in for some sanctions. It may be difficult for him to find another job in the league, considering he created a caustic environment in the Miami locker room. Martin might fare better on the job front, considering all he wanted in Miami was to do his job in a harassment-free work place.