By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The NFL’s independent report on bullying charges in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room has found that Richie Incognito and two teammates engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at the Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin and two others.
The 144-page report (www.NFLDolphinsreport.com) by independent investigator Ted Wells was released on Friday and also named Miami players John Jerry and Mike Pouncey as engaging in harassment and said another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer were also targets.
Offensive tackle Martin voluntarily left the club in October and said afterwards that he had been subjected to harassment. Fellow lineman Incognito was subsequently suspended from the team stemming from Martin’s complaint.
“The report concludes that the harassment by Martin’s teammates was a contributing factor in his decision to leave the team, but also finds that Martin’s teammates did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury,” the report said.
Wells also found that inappropriate behavior went beyond the mistreatment of Martin.
An unnamed, Japanese-born assistant trainer was repeatedly the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language, the report said.
It said the other unnamed offensive lineman “was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching,” and that Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults.
“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’ report said.
The National Football League said it would consider the findings of the report before determining any further action.
“We appreciate the work of Ted Wells and his colleagues and the cooperation of the Miami Dolphins organization in the investigation. After we have had an opportunity to review the report, we will have further comment as appropriate,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Reuters in an e-mail.
The NFL Players Association also said it would “review the findings closely, confer with our players and all relevant parties involved.”
Martin, 24, departed the Dolphins in late October, checking himself into a Florida hospital complaining of emotional distress before joining his family in California.
Shortly afterward, Martin’s bullying allegations arose regarding Incognito due to a voice mail in which the player used a racial slur and threatened violence toward Martin.
A lengthy list of text messages between Incognito and Martin later became public showing the two players traded more than a thousand messages in a year’s span, marked by vulgar banter from each of them.
The Dolphins placed Martin on the non-football illness list in late November and he did not return to the gridiron.
Incognito was suspended November 3 for conduct detrimental to the team and missed the rest of the 2013 season.
In a Twitter rant on Wednesday, Incognito insisted that Martin has not told the truth and insisted he would be found innocent by the investigation.
“We ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator, and by Jerry and Pouncey, who tended to follow Incognito’s lead,” the report said.
Despite the controversy, Miami remained competitive during the season and the Dolphins were in commanding position to claim a wild card berth in the playoffs until losing their last two games by an aggregate 39-7 to miss the postseason at 8-8.
There has already been fallout from the scandal with team general manager Jeff Ireland agreeing after the season to depart after six years in the job.
Ireland’s exit came one day after offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was dismissed by the team.
Coach Joe Philbin remains with the team.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Steve Ginsburg and Gene Cherry)