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Big Men Have Feelings Too

Most sports fans are probably familiar with the story of the alleged bullying suffered by Miami Dolphins players Jonathan Martin at the hands of Richie Incognito. While the allegations left many wondering how an NFL lineman could be so sensitive to locker room talk, a recent independent report has shed light on what appears to have been a pervasively hostile environment. The report found that three fellow teammates persistently taunted Martin, an unnamed teammate, and an assistant trainer with racial, sexual and homophobic slurs.

Martin, a 6’ 5”, 312 lb. lineman, was placed on the non-football injury list in November with full pay. According to the report, Incognito claims that vulgarity and graphic sexual comments “were not only a staple of their locker-room culture but also helped them bond.” Most of the verified insults embrace George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On T.V.” The following is a summary of the more family-friendly examples:

–       Incognito and two teammates wore traditional Japanese headbands on Pearl Harbor Day and threatened to physically harm the Assistant Trainer, a man of Japanese descent. Hours after Martin left the team the Trainer sent him a text message stating, “Hey JM I understand how [y]ou feel man… They are relentless sometime…. Some day I wanna do exactly what you did today.”

–       For Christmas, Coach Jim Turner gave the offensive linemen gift bags that included inflatable female dolls for all of the linemen except Player A, who received a male doll.

–       In a voicemail sent to Martin from Incognito, Incognito said, “I’m gonna slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. [#$%*] you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

–       Coach Turner sent the following text message to Martin knowing that Martin had hospitalized himself: “Put an end to this. You are a grown man. Do the right thing.”

The report states that Martin’s inability to make teammates stop the insults led him to contemplate suicide on two occasions. In a writing to his mother, he stated, “I care about my legacy as a professional athlete. But I’m miserable currently. A therapist & medication won’t help me gain the respect of my teammates. I really don’t know what to do Mom.”

In 2013, the Dolphins distributed a conduct policy defining harassment to include “unwelcome contact; jokes, comments and antics; generalizations and put-downs.” Incognito agreed to be bound by the policy. According to the report, there is no law against workplace bullying in any state. “Since 2003, laws that would have prohibited such conduct have been introduced in at least twenty-five state legislatures; to date, however, none has been enacted.”

While the investigation revealed that neither the Dolphins head coach nor top executives knew of the abuse, the Dolphins have since fired athletic trainer Kevin O’Neill and offensive line coach Jim Turner. Incognito, who was suspended for the remainder of the season, has filed a grievance with the Players Association to recover nearly $500,000. As always, we will stay abreast of developments. Follow us on Twitter @Jacobaronauer for updates.

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