Bridge: Ocean to Ocean Highway YUMA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
COVID-19 Coverage

Bullying Scandal Continues To Embroil Miami Dolphins


The most contentious conflict in the National Football League isn't on the field right now. It's among former teammates, and it's playing out in the press. It involves offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and allegations that he was attacked and harassed, leading to his sudden departure from the Miami Dolphins.

Last night, Martin's attorney released a new statement rejecting criticism of Martin that's followed his departure. The lawyer's statement said the issue is Jonathan's treatment by his teammates, and it went on to add new details of the alleged abuses suffered by Martin.

NPR's Mike Pesca is following this story and Mike, tell us more about what in this statement from lawyer David Cromwell.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Right. Well, up to this point, the main person who was said to have been harassing or threatening, or even doing worse, was a guard named Richie Incognito and originally, people in the Martin camp released a voicemail with a death threat that Incognito leveled at Martin. It was extremely racially charged.

But what this latest statement does is expand it. They don't mention anyone else by name, but they say that other members of the team physically and maliciously attacked Jonathan Martin. And it also goes on to say that, you know, he endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. And the one thing that this statement did - the statement of yesterday did was, it ended with a vile quote that we can't even begin to get into. But I could characterize it as saying that one teammate essentially threatened to violate Martin's sister.

BLOCK: Yes, and it was a horrifying quote. What are other players on the Miami Dolphins saying about all this?

PESCA: They have really rallied around Richie Incognito. And it's not - well, first of all, there's one possibility that Incognito's version - he hasn't exactly given a version except to deny Martin's charges - but I suppose there's the possibility that much of what Martin's saying is made up or totally misinterpreted of whole cloth.

But, you know, what usually happens in a situation like this is when someone transgresses against a team or a group - and it doesn't even have to be a sports team, you know, we see this in all sorts of companies and the military - there's a rally around a fact. And Incognito was the guy who was forcibly dismissed from the team. Martin was the guy who chose to remove himself from the team - he would say, you know, he pretty much had to remove himself. And so the current Dolphin players are sticking by Incognito.

They're going so far - Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback, said Riche Incognito is the best possible teammate I could've asked for. Other members of the offensive line, black and white - and there is that racial dynamic 'cause Incognito's white and Martin's black - you know, black and white have all stuck up for Incognito; and all said things like maybe Jonathan Martin should have stood up for himself.

And beyond that, you know, there's something that psychologists would call deviant over-conformity, which is kind of a fancy way of saying that sometimes when guys are inside a situation - and they want to be part of a team - they don't even know how far they're going, how far they're sort of breaking the norms of society.

BLOCK: Well, the NFL has now hired its own lawyer to investigate all of this. His name is Ted Wells. What signal does that send?

PESCA: It signals seriousness, and there was never an indication that the NFL wasn't taking this seriously. It's a giant PR nightmare, at least, for them. And Wells, you know, has great credentials. He's looked into sexual harassment at Syracuse. He looked into an NBA situation. And what the NFL right now has to do is decide, once they sort out the facts and just verify everything, I think they basically have to figure out if they are going to punish this like they did the New Orleans Saints in their bounty case; where not only did they punish the team, they issued broad rules for the league. Or is it going to be more like when the NCAA looked at Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, and instead of saying that, you know, this speaks to broader issues, Penn State was very heavily punished - but, you know, the other teams weren't really caught up. There was no aim to correct the culture of NCAA football, if you will.

BLOCK: And briefly, Mike, this has raised a lot of conversation about a culture of hazing throughout the NFL - though, I mean, if the allegations are true, I'm not sure that hazing is the right word at all to use here.

PESCA: Right. They might have included hazing; it seems to have gone far beyond that. And you read quote after quote - you know, all the reporters are now going into different locker rooms, does hazing occur in your life? And they say things like, well, it's not hazing, but it's tradition. The rookies buy the veterans. sometimes. expensive meals. Or, we all went through it. And that's one of the things the NFL will have to look at.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Mike Pesca. Mike, thanks.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.