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NFL Releases Grim Report Of Locker-Room Bullying


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. It's time for sports - but it's grim. An extensive investigation commissioned by the NFL has found three offensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins engaged in a pattern of harassment toward Jonathan Martin, another player and an assistant trainer. The report says they taunted them with homophobic and racist language and what the report called improper touching. It named lineman Richie Incognito as the principal harasser along with John Jerry and Mike Pouncey. We're joined now by NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: What caught your attention in these, I guess it was, 140 pages?

GOLDMAN: Hundred, forty-four, yeah. What caught my attention the specifics of a pattern of harassment, as you described it. Vile and vicious stuff directed at Martin and the two other people, and the stuff that particularly bothered Martin - sexually graphic words directed at his sister and his mom. Now, that said, there are definitely shades of gray in this whole saga. You know, it's not just Richie Incognito, the foul-mouthed, fire-breathing intimidator, and not just Jonathan Martin, the noble victim. There was a friendship between the two men. The report calls it odd but close. Martin, in many texts, joined in the vulgar language. Martin was bullied when he was younger, making him more sensitive to when Incognito explained the ways the rough and tumble banter and behavior between football teammates. But, you know, the report says none of that excuses what it calls the harassment by Incognito.

SIMON: And what's been the reaction of the principals on these last few hours?

GOLDMAN: Martin, through his agent, says he feels vindicated by the report and he intends to continue his NFL career. He hasn't played since he left the team last October and made the bullying claims then. Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins last November. His lawyer said the report was filled with errors. No bullying happened. In regards to the 144-page report by investigator Ted Wells, Incognito tweeted this last night: You could not define me in 144 years, let alone 144 pages, Mr. Wells.

SIMON: What about the protestations of Miami's coach and management that they knew nothing?

GOLDMAN: The report pretty much exonerated them, although one offensive line coach did know about the abuse, and according to the report, joined in. You know, some will be skeptical and wonder how could the bosses not know. I guess what's significant now, Scott, other than potential punishment by those involved by the league is how the bosses in Miami and around the NFL respond. Will locker room behavior become another point of change the way player safety has become on the field in light of the concussion revelations?

SIMON: Of course, all of this happening, as I note this morning, I believe the report was 21 NFL teams have a player accused of domestic abuse on their roster, and there's Michael Sam, the all-American defensive lineman at Missouri, has come out as gay and gotten a lot of support beginning with the NFL commissioner, Roger Goddell. Does the NFL deserve a player as good and a man as courageous of Michael Sam?

GOLDMAN: Well, not if the Dolphins' behavior was the norm. I don't think it is. Certainly, you'd expect teams and the league to go out of their way to stress that Miami is an aberration. In fact, Green Bay offensive lineman T.J. Lang did that on Twitter after the report came out. He wrote: Please don't stereotype NFL players for what's going on with Miami. That type of stuff is not common in other locker rooms.

SIMON: Tom, let me make a quick pivot to the Winter Olympics. The U.S. speedskating team are ditching their high-performance suits. But, you know, the figure skaters still love their sequins. I covered figure skating in a couple of Olympic Games. I love it. And it's already given us some indelible memories. And this is a sport people say is more showbiz than sport.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, and not a sport, some say. You know, those indelible moments, by one skater in particular, Scott, American Jeremy Abbott, who, as most people know, fell hard in his short program. A jarring moment followed by one of those great Olympics moments. He got up, the crowd cheering, he finished his program. Well, there was another jarring moment after the competition ended yesterday. Abbott finished 12th. He finished 9th at the last Olympics. Some say he can't handle the pressure in these big international events. To them he said this: I just want to put my middle finger in the air to everyone who has ever said that to me because they've never stood in my shoes. Nobody has to stand center ice in front of a million people and put an entire career on the line for eight minutes of their life when they've been doing it for 20-some years. If you think that's not hard then you're a damn idiot. Scott, I think, you know, it's not just all sequins and smiles.

SIMON: No. Oh, I like that. Good for you, Jeremy Abbott. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

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

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