Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he plans to meet with Jonathan Martin tomorrow to discuss claims of harassment by teammates that led the second-year offensive lineman to walk away from the organization.
Ross, speaking at a news conference before last night’s 22-19 loss to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wouldn’t disclose the location of the meeting. Ross said he exchanged text messages with Martin over the weekend, yet wanted to meet with him in person to “see how he’s doing and listen to his concerns.”
“I’m going there with an open mind,” Ross said. “I want to hear the facts and then from the facts I can say, ‘Were we right? Were we wrong?’ You can’t just deal in speculation.”
Martin, 24, left the team on Oct. 28. Seven days later, the Dolphins indefinitely suspended offensive lineman Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team after an expletive-filled voice message he sent to Martin became public.
Martin endured harassment “far beyond the traditional locker room hazing” for the entire 1 1/2 seasons he spent with the Dolphins and was physically assaulted by a teammate, his lawyer, David Cornwell of Gordon and Rees LLP in Atlanta, said Nov. 6. The National Football League is investigating the situation at the Dolphins’ behest.
“We want to know the truth,” Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel said yesterday. “Everyone in our organization has been instructed to cooperate fully with the NFL investigation. We simply want to know the facts and when we do I can assure you we will respond accordingly.”
Incognito said in an interview with Fox two days ago that the voice message he left for Martin containing racist and sexual slurs, along with threats of violence, was characteristic of the vulgar way the two communicated.
Ross said he was “appalled” when he read the transcript of the voicemail left by Incognito.
“Anybody would be appalled when they read that,” Ross said. “I didn’t realize that people would talk, text or speak that way to people, but we need to hear all the facts in the story.”
The Dolphins began an internal review of policies and procedures last week and Ross said yesterday that the team has also created an independent advisory group to review the organization’s conduct and make recommendations on areas for improvement. Former Dolphins coach Don Shula is a member of the group, along with ex-Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and former players Dan Marino, Curtis Martin and Jason Taylor.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and current players will also be part of the process, which Ross said is an effort to improve the team and not “a blueprint” for other NFL franchises. The group will begin its review after the season.
“The NFL locker room is a special place, no doubt, but that does not mean that different rules of decency and respect should be in play,” Ross said. “Winning championships is what we are all about, but we cannot do so if any of our family members are challenged from reaching their potential.”