Who is Responsible for NFL Bullying?

MartinNow what?

An independent investigation has concluded that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin  was bullied and harassed by team mates, forcing him to leave the team midway through the season.

Ted Wells, an attorney who was retained by the National Football League to investigate Martin’s abrupt departure from the Dolphins last fall, concludes in his report that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, “engaged in a patterns of harassment directed at not only at Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.”  He named Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey.

The report states that 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 alleges the assistant trainer  was the object of racial slurs and the offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching.

Dolphins Exonerated?

The Martin case raises the question of whether  the NFL tolerates abuse on the theory that it dehumanizes and “toughens up” players,  making  them more savage on the playing field.

The Wells report, however, barely acknowledges the role of the Dolphins or the NFL in the matter, even though these organizations appear to have tolerated the locker room’s culture of abuse that is laid bare in the report.

The report concludes:  “As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace. Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults. We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people.”

Martin reportedly did not report the harassment to the NFL because he didn’t want to be a “Judas.”

The report criticizes Dolphins Coach Jim Turner  for discouraging complaints. Although Turner denied it, the report states, “The evidence shows that Turner was aware of the “Judas” concept and that he had discussed its meaning with the linemen, explaining how Judas had betrayed Jesus Christ and defining Judas as a “snitch.”

Organizational Goal?

Many employers  engage in or tolerate strategic bullying to accomplish an organizational goal. For example, some unscrupulous employers seek to downsize without paying unemployment compensation or other benefits.

Surveys show that one in every three or four workers in the United States are bullied and harassed, and many suffer potentially serious emotional and physical damage. Unlike many other industrialized countries, no law exists in the United States requiring employers to insure their workplace is free from what some have called “emotional terrorism.”

Victims of workplace bullying often have little  resource.

Press attention may compel the Dolphins  to discipline Martin’s antagonists on the basis of a general  company anti-harassment policy. Many employers do not make that choice, leaving  victims vulnerable to emotional trauma until they quit like Martin or are fired.

This blog advocates  a national response to workplace bullying that permits any victim of a hostile workplace environment to seek the protections  now available only to protected classes (ie. race, sex) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.




  1. I was the target of workplace mobbing/bullying for 8 years. It started after I spoke up about something I felt was wrong. The bully was personal friends with most of the supervisors and she could do no wrong. When two new top supervisors were hired I thought it would end. I went to them and HR about what I had been dealing with. This backfired and the mobbing not only continued but actually escalated. In October I was wrongfully terminated. I was disciplined for minor typo errors which no one else got disciplined for and accused of insubordination for asking a question, as well as other unfounded accusations. It’s called “padding the file” when an employee gets targeted and disciplined for one thing after another, however minor. After 25 years at a job I once loved, I could do nothing right. My physical and mental health have both been severely affected, not to mention my finances now that I’m unemployed. I am hoping House Bill 1179 in Pennsylvania gets passed so that no one else has to endure what I did for the past 8 years. It’s time employers are held responsible for this abuse especially if they are one of the abusers. This is not about personality differences or a boss being tough. It’s about intimidation, humiliation and continuous and repeated acts of emotional abuse. Unless you’ve actually been a target, it’s difficult to understand but please know that it is real and needs to be stopped. I can’t help but wonder if a lot of domestic abuse and child abuse is result of “targets” taking their work stress,caused by bullying, out on their family members or themselves through substance abuse. The job market is challenging enough without having to worry about losing your job due to bullying. If you have any family members or friends going through this, please be supportive of them as much as you can. Your support may be the only thing keeping them from ” going over the edge”.


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