Published November 08, 2013
Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin endured daily harassment from teammates that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing, including a malicious physical attack and vulgar comments, according to his attorney.
David Cornwell, who was hired this week as Martin's attorney, released a statement Thursday night claiming that multiple players were behind the harassment. Martin, upset by treatment he considered abusive, left the Dolphins last week.
Martin's agent later complained to the Dolphins, who suspended guard Richie Incognito. The NFL is investigating whether Incognito harassed or bullied Martin, and whether their teammates and the organization mishandled the matter.
Cornwell's statement alleges an unidentified Dolphins player threatened Martin's sister in vulgar fashion.
"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," the statement said. "This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. ...
"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."
Cornwell is a lawyer who has represented the NFL and several prominent players, including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He was a candidate in 2009 to become executive director of the NFL Players Association, a job that went to DeMaurice Smith.
The Dolphins and Incognito's agent didn't respond to requests for comment on Cornwell's statement.
The website ProFootballTalk.com reported Wednesday that Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland was made aware of the alleged bullying Martin and Incognito, and suggested that Martin try to resolve the matter by confronting his teammate physically.
The report, on the website ProFootballTalk.com, cited multiple NFL sources in saying that Ireland responded to a complaint from Martin's agent by telling him that Martin should stand up to Incognito punch him.
The Dolphins organization has not commented on any aspect of the case since announcing Incognito's indefinite suspension for conduct detrimental to the team late Sunday.
Some say Martin, a Stanford graduate who went about his business quietly, handled the situation well. But some players believe Martin should have responded more firmly.
"Is Incognito wrong? Absolutely. He's 100 percent wrong," New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. "No individual should have to go through that, especially in their workplace.
"But at the same time, Jonathan Martin is a 6-4, 320-pound man. I mean, at some point and time you need to stand your ground as an individual. Am I saying go attack, go fight him? No. I think we all understand we can stand our ground without anything being physical."
"Jonathan Martin's toughness is not at issue," Cornwell said. "The issue is Jonathan's treatment by his teammates."
Dolphins players have robustly defended Incognito, long considered among the NFL's dirtiest players. He's now a notorious national villain, but teammates praise his leadership and loyalty.
They've been less passionate in their support of Martin, saying he and Incognito behaved like best friends.
"They did a lot of stuff together," tackle Tyson Clabo said. "So if he had a problem with the way he was treating him, he had a funny way of showing it."
Martin is with his family in California to undergo counseling for emotional issues.
A senior partner in a New York law firm was appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate possible misconduct and prepare a report.
The alleged bullying saga engulfing the Dolphins has shed a light on how damaging perceptions can be in the violent world of the NFL.
A Pittsburgh native, Martin is the son of Harvard graduates and his great grandfather also graduated from the school in 1924. At Stanford, he protected Andrew Luck's blind side, and also majored in the classics.
Taken in the second round of the 2012 draft, Martin has what it takes physically to be an NFL player -- size, skill, athleticism, intelligence. He won praise from the Dolphins for his diligent study of game and practice video.
But while he has been a starter since the first game of his rookie season, Martin developed a reputation in the NFL for lacking toughness. That impression might have been reinforced by the way he handled his issues with Incognito, current and former teammates acknowledge.
"A lot of people might look at Jonathan Martin and think that he's soft because he stepped away from the game, and say, `Why don't you just fight him?"' said Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who played with Martin at Stanford. "Well, if you look at it with common sense and being logical, what options did Jonathan Martin have?
"He could fight Richie Incognito. He could go and tell on the players, which we know in the football locker room doesn't go over too well. Or he could remove himself from the situation and let the proper channels take care of itself. And I think he made the intelligent, smart choice without putting himself or Richie Incognito's physical abilities in danger."
Incognito's harassment of Martin included text messages that were racist and threatening, two people familiar with the situation have told The Associated Press. Incognito is white, while Martin is biracial.
The Dolphins (4-4) play for the first time since the scandal broke Monday night at Tampa Bay (0-8). At least 75 reporters and cameramen tracking the case were in the locker room after Thursday's practice, but receiver Brian Hartline said the scrutiny won't prevent the team from playing well.
"It almost heightens your awareness," he said. "You know it's going to take away from your focus, so it does the exact opposite. You overcompensate to make sure you stay aware of the game."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.