Incognito Painted as Bully in Wells Report

On February 14, 2014, NFL investigator Ted Wells published a 144-page report chronicling the harassment of players and coaches on the Miami Dolphins after offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team on October 28, 2013 amidst claims of bullying. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hired Wells to investigate the claims of workplace misconduct in the Dolphins’ locker room and the results were explosive.

Not only did Dolphins guard Richie Incognito exchange numerous lewd text messages with Martin, but he left menacing voicemails as well. In 2013, Incognito threatened to kill Martin, slap him across the mouth and slap his real mother across her face. Incognito’s harassment was not limited to texts and voicemails, however. Incognito – along with offensive guard John Jerry and center/guard Mike Pouncey – simulated having sex with Martin’s sister during stretching exercises. The players promised rough sex before they spit on her and treat her like garbage.

According to the report, head coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins’ office executives were not aware of the harassment. However, offensive line coach Jim Turner and assistant line coach Chris Mosley, who left the team in November, were fully aware of the harassment. Not only were these two assistant coaches privy to what was happening, but they occasionally participated as well.

The report revealed that Martin was not the only target of this harassment.  Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey also targeted Player A, identified as Andrew McDonald by the Miami Herald – and an assistant trainer. In 2012, offensive line coach Turner gave the players gift bags containing inflatable female dolls. McDonald was given a male blow-up figure. Wells said that McDonald, like Martin, was seen as a target because of his soft-spoken nature. He was regularly called homophobic slurs by fellow teammates.

Additionally, Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey admitted to regularly calling the Japanese-born assistant trainer a “Jap” and a “Chinaman.” The players continued taunting him, saying they would have sex with the trainer’s girlfriend and that his mother gave happy ending massages.

The players also racially taunted Martin on numerous occasions.  The report says he was called insults such as a “shine box” and  a “stinky Pakistani.” While the misogynistic comments and racial slurs were abhorrent, the most alarming remarks for the NFL were the homophobic sentiments.  The report was released days after Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam announced that he is gay. Unfortunately, Wells’ report shows homophobia is still alive and occurring in NFL locker rooms.

“With the recent announcement by Michael Sam, a defensive lineman from the University of Missouri who is expected to be selected in the 2014 NFL draft, that he is gay, it is even more urgent that a tolerant atmosphere exist throughout the league,” Wells’ report states. “The frequent use of homophobic insults undermines this goal.”

In a statement released with the report, 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.”

The report states that Martin thought about committing suicide twice  in 2013 after the harassment from his teammates. It concludes, “According to our consulting expert, a psychologist who focuses on matters of workplace conduct, such a reaction is consistent with the behavior of a victim of abusive treatment.” This is not the first instance in which Martin has been harassed, as he claims to have been the victim of bullying in middle and high school as well.Richie Incognito was suspended pending the results of Wells’ investigation, ending his season early. As of now, Jim Turner’s job is in jeopardy. As an overseer who participated in the harassment of players, his future with the Dolphins does not look bright. The commissioner of the NFL and vice president for player engagement have spoken with 35 players to promote mutual respect in the locker room. While the NFL strives to improve workplace culture, they have much more work to do to ensure this harassment is not a widespread phenomenon throughout team locker rooms. 

Contact Kristen Duarte at [email protected].