Entertainment and Sports Law

Lawyer's report for NFL backs up Miami Dolphins bullying claims, warns readers of vulgar content

After being brought in by the National Football League to investigate claims that Richie Incognito and two other Miami Dolphins starters bullied a junior player, a partner of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has substantiated the allegations.

The nearly 150-page report (PDF) released Friday warns readers that it contains objectionable language and descriptions of what the South Florida Sun Sentinel calls “extremely vulgar” behavior. Lead author Theodore V. “Ted” Wells Jr. concludes that Incognito led fellow players John Jerry and Mike Pouncey in a pattern of harassment against not only the player who complained, Jonathan Martin, but a second offensive lineman and an assistant trainer who are not identified by name.

“The report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other 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 and other offensive comments,” writes Wells in the summary section.

A workplace conduct policy signed by the three starters in 2013 prohibits “unwelcome contact; jokes, comments and antics; generalizations and put-downs,” the report notes. Hence, “it was not difficult to conclude that the assistant trainer and Player A were harassed, but the questions raised in Martin’s case were more complex, nuanced and difficult,” writes Wells, explaining that Martin had some pre-existing emotional issues and he and Incognito communicated regularly in a friendship that included a number of put-downs on both sides.

However, the clear harassment of the two other victims bolstered Martin’s claims, Wells explains, and Martin said he had felt pressured to engage in the back-and-forth comments in order to fit in. Martin’s emotional distress due to the treatment he experienced caused him to quit the team last year, the report states.

A CBS Sports article provides further details.

Team owner Steve Ross said the Dolphins will respond specifically after a careful review of the report, but stated that “as an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another.“

The articles don’t include any comment from the accused starters or Incognito, who has previously denied that he did anything wrong and indicated that he considered the complained-of conduct to be jokes.

NJ.com reports that Incognito, soon to be a free agent, posted a series of tweets Wednesday that alternately apologized, suggested that Martin had lied and made claims about Martin’s emotional state.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Miami Dolphins starter is suspended indefinitely, team asks NFL to probe player’s bullying claims”

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer Ted Wells to investigate Miami Dolphins workplace misconduct allegations”

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