By Tracy Connor, NBC News
The NFL's independent investigation into Jonathan Martin's claims that he was bullied has found that three Miami Dolphins starters — Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey — "engaged in a pattern of harassment" that included vile racial and anti-gay slurs.
The 144-page report by lawyer Ted Wells, which was released Friday, said the harassment was directed at Martin, another unnnamed Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.
The Japanese-born trainer was the target of "racial slurs and other racially derogatory language," Wells said. Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey allegedly once donned "rising sun" headbands and threatened to hurt him to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"The other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching," Wells continued.
"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.” The report details Incognito, who is white, calling Martin, who is black, the N-word in a text and in person.
Incognito's lawyer said the report was "replete with errors" and there is no evidence that Martin's mental health or athletic performance was impacted by his teammates.
"It is disappointing that Mr. Wells would have gotten it so wrong, but not surprising. The truth, as reported by the Dolphins players and as shown by the evidence, is that Jonathan Martin was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins Offensive line," attorney Mark Schamel said in a statement.
Wells wrote that the harassment did contribute to Martin's decision to bolt from the Dolphins in the middle of his second season. But he said it does not appear the veterans — Incognito and Jerry joined the team in 2010, Pouncey in 2011 — were trying to drive him off or cause serious emotional distress.
Yet Wells said text messages that Martin sent to his parents and others — months before he walked off the team Oct. 28 and checked into a hospital for psychological treatment — corroborate his story that he was tormented by how he was treated.
The report, which is full of crude text messages, says that Martin and Incognito had an "odd but seemingly close friendship" marked by two-way "vulgar" communication.
"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."
Martin was especially sensitive to insults because he had been bullied in high school, and he contemplated suicide twice last year, the report says.
"To be candid, we struggled with how to evaluate Martin’s claims of harassment given his mental health issues, his possible heightened sensitivity to insults and his unusual, 'bipolar' friendship with Incognito," the report said.
"Nonetheless, we ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator, and by Jerry and Pouncey, who tended to follow Incognito’s lead."
Among the evidence: an entry in a notebook the offensive linemen kept to record each other's infractions and fines; Incognito fined himself $200 for "breaking JMart" and later asked teammates to destroy the book.
The other player who was harassed endured constant homophobic teasing that was not restricted to his teammates, the reporter said. When offensive line coach Jim Turner gave all his players inflatable female dolls as gag gifts in Christmas 2012, the "quiet and unassuming" young man got a male doll.
The report also faulted Turner for sending Martin text messages exhorting him to "do the right thing" and defend Incognito after word of the bullying leaked out in the fall.
However, Wells concluded there was no evidence the Dolphins' front office knew about the alleged abuse.
Text messages between Incognito and Pouncey showed they were furious with Martin after he left the team.
"Snitches get stitches," Incognito wrote. "Blood in blood out F------guy."
Pouncey's reply: "He’s dead to me."
The NFL Players Association said it was reviewing the report.
In a statement, team owner Stephen Ross called the language and behavior that the report said was directed at Martin "deeply disturbing."
"I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report," Ross said. "We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. ... I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again."
The report was released just two days after Incognito went on a Twitter rant against Martin, apologizing for rude language but insisting he was a "loyal friend and good teammate."
Dear Jon Martin..... The truth is going to bury you and your entire “camp”. You could have told the truth the entire time.
- Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 12, 2014
FACT: Jonathan Martin told me he thought about taking his own life in MAY 2013 b/c he wasn't playing well. Told me he felt worthless.
— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 12, 2014
First published February 14th 2014, 11:40 am
Why am I not surprised that Pouncey was one of the tormentors?