Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who is at the center of the bullying scandal that has rocked the Dolphins in recent days, had his lawyer release a statement on Thursday night. With more and more of Martin’s teammates coming out and defending Richie Incognito, who is the apparent ringleader of the abuse and hazing directed at Martin, it probably seemed necessary for Martin to release something pointing out that what occurred over the past year and a half went well beyond ‘toughening up’ a young player. Below is the statement that lawyer David Cornwell released to NBC’s ProFootballTalk: “Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue. Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012. At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh’s “smash mouth” brand of football and he protected Andrew Luck’s blind side. The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. Beyond the well-publicized voice mail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments such as the quote at the bottom. These facts are not in dispute. Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice. Despite his love for football, Jonathan left the Dolphins. Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation. Quote from teammate: “We are going to run train on your sister. . . . She loves me. I am going to f-k her without a condom and c- in her c—.”
Ummmm, yeah. That last quote is pretty disgusting. Much of the defense coming from Incognito’s teammates is that Incognito treated Martin like a ‘little brother’ and that any abuse Martin received from Incognito or others was all in good fun and an effort to get Martin more acclimated to the harshness of NFL life. But, when combined with the voice mails and text messages we’ve seen and heard from Incognito, and the accusations that Incognito and others forced Martin to pay for elaborate dinner tabs as well as a trip to Las Vegas, it would seem that Martin has every right to feel that he was unfairly targeted and forced to endure an unacceptable work environment.
These aren’t just good-natured guys with some rough edges taking some jokes a little too far. What we’ve heard and seen so far presents a much darker picture. Take into account Incognito’s past behavior, as well as a recent revelation that he humiliated and essentially molested a young woman at a golf tournament last year, and you basically have sanctioned sociopathic behavior that was allowed to go on for far too long. One criticism that has been made towards Martin is that this should have stayed in-house, that it shouldn’t have been made public in this way. Personally, I find that to be a copout response that doesn’t answer the underlying question: Why was this allowed to go on in the first place?
As the story has sat out there for a while now, naturally reactions start to change and we’ve now seen people start to come around and try to justify the actions of Incognito and the unnamed teammates that carried out these actions. The reactions have ranged from the following: It all being blown out of proportion, Martin being too sensitive, Martin being too much of a wussy, Incognito taking a coach’s instructions just a little too far, players not realizing that Martin didn’t take it in the joking matter it was intended, etc. However, when you think about it, that is just the kind of reaction bullies want. They want it to be seen as all a ‘misunderstanding.’ It was all just in ‘good fun.’ They didn’t know that someone would take it ‘that way.’ Seriously, others didn’t think it was all that bad, so why should you?
From the outside looking in, it seems to me like what we saw was the classic case of a bully preying on someone he thought was weak and taking it as far as he could, in order to make himself feel like an alpha male. By intimidating a younger player into submission, he was able to position himself as a ‘clubhouse leader’, showing other players that he was not someone to trifle with. It’s possible that his history of sociopathic behavior off the field and reputation as the league’s dirtiest player on it carried greater weight in the locker room. It could have showed that he was someone who would do whatever it took to win a game and didn’t take any guff from anyone, anywhere. And, if that is the case, it is a sad state of affairs.