Three starting offensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins “engaged in a pattern of harassment” toward their teammate Jonathan Martin, another young offensive lineman and an assistant trainer that included racist and homophobic language and improper touching, according to an extensive investigation commissioned by the NFL.
The investigation concluded that harassment by Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey caused significant emotional distress to Martin, who left the team in October.
The findings were announced by Ted Wells, a defense lawyer who was hired by the NFL in November to conduct an independent investigation into the bullying scandal that engulfed the Dolphins and the league, and also cast a spotlight on the issue of workplace conduct in the locker room.
“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 in a statement.
“The report concludes that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed not only at Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.”
The harassment included racial slurs, homophobic name calling, improper physical touching and making sexually explicit remarks about Martin's sister and mother, the report said.
Other Dolphins linemen, including Nate Garner, Josh Samuda, a third teammate referred to as “Player A,” and assistant trainer Naohisa Inoue, born in Japan, were also the recipients of either threats or racial epithets.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and members of the front office were unaware of the abuse, the report found.
After Martin left the team in October, Incognito boasted about "breaking Jmart" in a notebook the linemen used to tally fines and bonuses among themselves.
In the hours after Martin left the team, Incognito recorded a $200 fine against himself in the book. A week later, he texted Pouncey and Nate Garner saying: “They're going to suspend me Please destroy the fine book first thing in the morning.”
Investigators obtained the notebook before it was destroyed.
Incognito was suspended indefinitely on Nov. 3 amid allegations that he bullied Martin, who left the team a week earlier. Martin returned to California to undergo counseling for emotional issues. Among Martin's claims were that Incognito left text and voice mail messages that included racial epithets and menacing language.
Incognito, responding in an interview with Fox that was broadcast on Nov. 10, did not deny that he used profane language. But, he said, such behavior was typical within the context of their relationship. He also said he never realized that he had offended Martin.
More than 1,000 of their text messages, from October 2012 to November 2013, were made public at the end of January, and they reveal a friendship that seemed genuine. Their exchanges — many containing lewd descriptions and crude language — meandered from women to football to their social lives, and on the surface did not depict Incognito as a bully.
But the investigation found that other text messages Martin sent to his parents and others, corroborate his account, and that the harassment was a contributing factor in his decision to leave the team.
According to the report, Martin was teased “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,” while the trainer was “the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language.”
But the report also concluded that “Martin's teammates did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury.”
Information from the New York Times, Bloomberg and the Associated Press was used in this report.