An investigation into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal, which led to offensive tackle Jonathan Martin leaving the team and the suspension of offensive guard Richie Incognito, has concluded that Martin's claims of abuse were valid.
Ted Wells, who completed the investigative report on behalf of the NFL for the law firm Paul, Weiss, wrote that Incognito, as well as Dolphins offensive linemen Mike Pouncey and John Jerry, "engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer."
“The Report rejects any suggestion that Martin manufactured claims of abuse after the fact to cover up an impetuous decision to leave the team," according to a release by the firm. "Contemporaneous text messages that Martin sent to his parents and others months before he left the Dolphins—which have never before been made public—corroborate his account that the persistent harassment by his teammates caused him significant emotional distress.
“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,” Wells said.
The investigation included more than 100 interviews, according to the report, including the entire Dolphins roster.
Martin left the team Oct. 28 after an incident at the Dolphins’ practice facility. Shortly thereafter reports streamed out of the Dolphins’ headquarters that the third year player had been the subject of bullying and that Incognito had been the primary agitator.
Incognito was blasted in the press after explicit text messages between the two players and a voicemail was released by Martin’s camp. According to the investigation into the episode, those were only a fraction of the messages between the two that corroborated Martin’s version of events.
The report also confirmed that Martin had suicidal thoughts on at least two occasions . His mother, who had become concerned about his situation, flew to Florida in May 2013 and convinced him to see a specialist and to get a dog to help with his depressed state. He ended up adopting a rescue dog and was prescribed Lexapro by a psychiatrist associated with the team after missing voluntary workouts.
The report states:
On May 17, Martin wrote to his mother: “I’m not gonna be scared any more. This medicine is effective. Just had a ‘moment of clarity.’” When she asked him to explain, he answered: “Well I realized that I don’t like superficial Miami people. And that I wanna be really good at football. And that I need to find a girlfriend.”
Martin’s problems started in the early part of the 2012 season, according to Wells’ report, which traces the verbal assaults Martin received to an incident with Dolphins guard John Jerry. Jerry had hurled expletives at Martin, who failed to respond in an appropriately course manner. The report details that the abuse intensified from there.
In one rather sad incident, Martin told Wells that he was embarrassed about being physically and verbally abused on a yacht trip with his teammates, crying in the bathroom. His text messages to his mother from that trip were reproduced for the report.
“I’m never gonna change,” Martin wrote his mother. “I got punked again today. Like a little [expletive]. And I never do anything about it.”
His depressed state continued in May of 2013.
On May 28, he sent this text to his mother: “I just don’t really see the point in things. It’s a major accomplishment for me if I brush my teeth or eat more than 1 meal in a day on off days. It’s not that I’m sad, just unmotivated.” And on June 9, he wrote to her: “I just feel trapped. I feel like I have no agency in my life. Too many expectations. I’m losing my will to compete, which is the scariest thing an athlete can ever say.”
According to the report, Incognito claimed that Martin was depressed because of his play on the field, linking it back to the Dolphins’ season-ending loss to the Patriots Dec. 30, 2012. The Dolphins were shut out in that game, 28-0.
The report also confirmed that Martin confided in Incognito his suicidal thoughts, which Incognito shared on Twitter Wednesday. Martin also told fellow Dolphins teammate Will Yeatman.