Truth Wins Out condemned the NFL’s workplace culture today after a 144-page report revealed a system that seemed to encourage, or ignore, rampant homophobia, racism, misogyny and bullying. The report focused on the Miami Dolphins, after offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team after a pattern of harassment by teammates Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey. Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen is a Miami native who attended his first Dolphins game in 1978, as an eight-year-old boy – which makes the outcome of this report painful and sickening.
“The rancid behavior detailed in the report had more in common with the television show Lockup, than what one might expect in an NFL locker room. The Miami Dolphins and the NFL need to reboot and immediately create a workplace environment that respects all employees,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “As a lifelong fan of the Dolphins I’m horrified that this team represents a city that prides itself on diversity.”
TWO praised NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for commissioning this report and publicly releasing the results. However, now that we know there is a major problem, we hope the NFL will take constructive steps, said TWO. Today’s New York Times detailed some of the problems that occurred in the Miami locker room:
• Incognito was suspended indefinitely Nov. 3 amid allegations that he bullied Martin, with whom he shared a complicated relationship. He was as apt to help Martin, who is black, improve his blocking technique or ask about his evening plans as he was to demean him with racial insults or homophobic language.
• The mistreatment began early in the 2012 season, when the intensity and frequency of the insults increased soon after Martin declined to fight back when Jerry, who is black, called him a “bitch.” Throughout the season, Martin often arrived at team headquarters repeating what became to him a mantra: Just get through the day. He did, but not without enduring shame.
• Sometimes, Incognito would make jokes about slavery in his presence, and Martin would be teased for not being “black enough.” At other times, Martin was subjected to crude sexual references — often accompanied by obscene gestures — about his sister, whom his three tormentors had never met.
• Martin’s sister was also mentioned during a string of five text messages, sent by Incognito on Jan. 6, 2013, that Martin found particularly revolting. Insulting him with homophobic language, Incognito also referred to Martin’s sister in sexually graphic terms.
• Martin ignored several text messages from Incognito for three days before engaging him on Oct. 31. Their exchange concluded with Incognito telling him: “If u need anything hit me up. I’m here for you my dude.” A few hours later, in a text to Pouncey, who is biracial, Incognito called Martin a gay slur and said that Martin should never be allowed to return. Pouncey agreed and called Martin “a coward for snitching.”
• In addition to Martin, an unnamed young offensive lineman was said to have been taunted with homophobic insults and touched in a “mockingly suggestive manner.” Jim Turner, the team’s offensive line coach, gave all of his linemen, except the unnamed one, inflatable female dolls before Christmas 2012. When interviewed, Turner said he could not remember giving a male doll to that lineman. Martin was said to have engaged in the teasing, but not the touching, of that player.
• The investigators also determined that the harassment extended to members of the staff. An unnamed assistant trainer, who was born in Japan, was targeted by Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey, the report said. In December 2012, on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the three linemen wore Japanese headbands given to them by the trainer and “jokingly threatened to harm the assistant trainer in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack.”
• Martin told investigators that they had mocked the trainer by using an “Asian accent” and by making jokes about his mother and girlfriend. They also called him a “dirty communist” or “North Korean,” the report said. The trainer, who did not return messages seeking comment, was said to have confided in Martin that he was upset, but he denied in interviews that Incognito had offended him because he said he was worried about losing players’ trust.
“When an environment is homophobic, you can always be sure that other forms of bigotry and discrimination lurk close to the surface,” said TWO’s Besen. “This report details how when prejudice against one group is not addressed, it metastasizes and harms many different groups of people.”
Truth Wins Out (TWO) is a non-profit organization that works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice. Our philosophy is simple: We attack the underpinnings of homophobia by debunking harmful lies, discrediting hateful myths, and countering anti-gay organizations. By chipping away at the underlying ignorance that fuels anti-LGBT attitudes, we can ultimately win our fight for fairness and achieve full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people worldwide.