DAVIE — Jonathan Martin’s new attorney says harassment of the Miami Dolphins tackle came from more than one teammate.
The abuse went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing, including a malicious physical attack and daily vulgar comments, attorney David Cornwell said Thursday. He was hired this week to represent Martin, who left the Dolphins last week.
His agent then complained to the Dolphins that Martin had been harassed, and they suspended guard Richie Incognito.
The NFL is investigating whether Incognito harassed or bullied Martin, and whether their teammates and the organization mishandled the matter.
Incognito has long been regarded as among the NFL’s dirtiest players, and has had brushes with the law. A police report that surfaced Thursday said a female volunteer at a Dolphins charity golf tournament in May 2012 complained that Incognito harassed her. According to the report filed in the Miami suburb of Aventura, the woman said Incognito touched her inappropriately with his golf club, leaned close to her as if dancing and then emptied bottled water in her face.
The complaint to the police was first reported by Miami television station WPLG.
Icognito was not charged. The Dolphins declined to comment Friday.
Cornwell is a lawyer who has represented the NFL and several prominent players, including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He also was a candidate in 2009 to become executive director of the NFLPA, a job that went to DeMaurice Smith.
Cornwell’s statement alleges an unidentified Dolphins player threatened Martin’s sister in vulgar fashion. The attorney said the facts “are not in dispute.”
“For the entire season and a half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment,” the statement said. “This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. ...
“Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice. Despite his love for football, Jonathan left the Dolphins. Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation.”
The Dolphins and Incognito’s agent didn’t respond to requests for comment on Cornwell’s statement.
Some say Martin, a Stanford graduate who went about his business quietly, handled the situation well. But pro football is a macho world, and some players believe Martin should have responded more firmly.
“Is Incognito wrong? Absolutely. He’s 100 percent wrong,” New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. “No individual should have to go through that, especially in their workplace.
“But at the same time, Jonathan Martin is a 6-4, 320-pound man. I mean, at some point and time you need to stand your ground as an individual. Am I saying go attack, go fight him? No. I think we all understand we can stand our ground without anything being physical.”
“Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue,” Cornwell said. “The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates.”
The Dolphins (4-4) will play for the first time since the scandal broke Monday night at Tampa Bay (0-8). At least 75 reporters and cameramen tracking the case were in the locker room after Thursday’s practice, but receiver Brian Hartline said the scrutiny won’t prevent the team from playing well.
“It almost heightens your awareness,” he said. “You know it’s going to take away from your focus, so it does the exact opposite. You overcompensate to make sure you stay aware of the game.”
Dolphins players have robustly defended Incognito, long considered among the NFL’s dirtiest players. He’s now a notorious national villain, but teammates praise his leadership and loyalty. They’ve been less passionate in their support of Martin, saying he and Incognito behaved like best friends.
Martin is with his family in California to undergo counseling for emotional issues. A senior partner in a New York law firm was appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate possible misconduct and prepare a report.
While Martin has been a starter since the first game of his rookie season, he developed a reputation in the NFL for lacking toughness. That impression might have been reinforced by the way he handled his issues with Incognito, current and former teammates acknowledge.
“A lot of people might look at Jonathan Martin and think that he’s soft because he stepped away from the game, and say, ‘Why don’t you just fight him?”’ said Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who played with Martin at Stanford. “Well, if you look at it with common sense and being logical, what options did Jonathan Martin have?
“He could fight Richie Incognito. He could go and tell on the players, which we know in the football locker room doesn’t go over too well. Or he could remove himself from the situation and let the proper channels take care of itself. And I think he made the intelligent, smart choice without putting himself or Richie Incognito’s physical abilities in danger.”