Lawyer: Martin left because of persistent bullying, not lack of toughness
(CNN) — Vulgar comments, some laced with racial epithets. A physical attack. Threats to him and his family.
All of this and more — stretched out over a season and a half — proved too much for Jonathan Martin to bear, which is why he left the Miami Dolphins last week, his lawyer said.
“Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing,” the attorney, David Cornwell, said in a prepared statement. “… These facts are not in dispute.”
The comments, through the intermediary, break an extensive silence from the offensive lineman who walked out after an incident in the team’s cafeteria and hasn’t been back since, according to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.
Days later, Miami suspended Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team. Rumors and news stories flew quickly in the days to come, including a well-publicized voice mail in which Incognito reportedly calls Martin a racial epithet and threatens his life.
Some also questioned the toughness of Martin, a Stanford University graduate who was in his second NFL season, especially as it came out that he might be seeking help for emotional issues.
But Cornwell stressed: “Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not an issue.”
“Jonathan started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012,” he said of the second-round draft pick. “At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh’s ‘smash mouth’ brand of football and he protected (then-Stanford, now Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck’s blind side.
“The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates.”
Cornwell then outlined some of that treatment, including Martin’s reaction to it.
Martin tried “to befriend … teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment” — something that Cornwell called “a textbook reaction of victims of bullying.”
It didn’t work, the lawyer said. Instead, there was more taunting, “a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate and daily vulgar comments” — including one threatening to have unprotected sex with Martin’s sister.
“Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice,” Cornwell said of Martin’s leaving the Dolphins. “… Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation.”
That investigation is one part of the still evolving saga centered on Martin and Incognito, plus more generally the Dolphins team and the culture in NFL locker rooms generally.
Martin remains on the team’s roster while Incognito is on the suspended list.
CNN reached out multiple times to Incognito but hasn’t received comment. But he did talk to CNN affiliate WSVN outside a doctor’s office in Weston, Florida, on Tuesday, saying, “You know, I’m just trying to weather the storm right now. And this will pass.”
Incognito has a history of run-ins. They include a much reported suspension from the University of Nebraska football team and his release by the NFL’s St. Louis Rams in December 2009 after an in-game argument with then-head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
More recently, in 2012 a volunteer at a golf tournament accused Incognito of inappropriately touching her with a golf club, according to a newly disclosed police report.
No charges were filed, according to CNN affiliate WPLG-TV, which first obtained the police report.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera and Quand Thomas contributed to this report.
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