Repercussions Likely To Follow After Details Of Bullying Released In Dolphins Report
The findings of Ted Wells' investigation into alleged abuse in the Dolphins' locker room were issued Friday, and the life of players was "depicted in extraordinary and often unseemly detail, evoking 'Lord of the Flies' more than the highlight reels that saturate autumn Sundays," according to a front-page piece by Ben Shpigel of the N.Y. TIMES. The piece, which ran under the header, "A Classic Case Of Bullying Seen In An NFL Team," was 1,560 words long (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15). Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross issued a statement saying, "I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report. We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. ... We are committed to a positive workplace environment where everyone treats each other with respect" (Dolphins).
ACTION TO FOLLOW: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote repercussions "likely will follow in the form of punishments levied by the club or the NFL," and lawsuits "might yet be filed related to a workplace environment fraught with harassment and taunting." Offensive line coach Jim Turner, who was identified as a key figure in the case, "must be fired." Cote: "Just terrible, all of it. Over-the-top and inexcusable. ... The NFL will formulate an official new code of conduct arising from this, but isn’t it sad there need to be written rules for not harassing a teammate? For treating others with basic respect?" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/15). ESPN.com's James Walker wrote, "What we didn’t know was the degree of oversight -- or the lack thereof -- within the Dolphins' organization." The Dolphins as a franchise "deserve just as much criticism as the players involved in this scandal" (ESPN.com, 2/14). THE BIG LEAD's Jason Lisk wrote under the header, "Ted Wells Report Goes Curiously Easy On Joe Philbin, Jim Turner, And Other Dolphins Coaches" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 2/14). In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote under the header, "Wells Report Shows Jim Turner Will Be Fall Guy, But Makes Clear Miami Dolphins Job Is Too Big For Joe Philbin" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/15). In Orlando, Chris Perkins wrote the report "heaped praise" on Philbin. The report said Philbin promoted "integrity and accountability" in the organization (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/16). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes the report is "144 graphic pages of how far a once-proud franchise has fallen" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/17). Meanwhile, Kenny Zuckerman, the agent for Dolphins OT Jonathan Martin, said that the "Martin camp will be meeting with Dolphins officials at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week." Zuckerman said, "We're going to meet with the Dolphins at the Combine and see what their plans are. Right now they have his property, they have his rights" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 2/15).
TIME FOR CHANGE? THE MMQB's Peter King cites sources as saying that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the past 60 days has "met with more than 30 players, asking them how to make the locker room a more tolerant, more professional place." When the NFL "adopts a locker-room and meeting-room behavior policy, it’s going to be for adults." King offers his takeaways from Wells' "thorough job" and adds, "Goodell can't let this moment get away" (MMQB.SI.com, 2/17). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell wrote Martin's case "should be hailed as a game-changer affecting the NFL's cultural landscape" (USATODAY.com, 2/15). In L.A., Sam Farmer wrote Wells' report provides an "unflattering snapshot of a locker room culture where off-color remarks about sexual preference and race are commonplace." It is "unclear what the NFL will do next, but sensitivity training is likely to be a point of emphasis at the league's annual rookie symposium, which is mandatory for every incoming draft class." Stanford law professor William Gould, a former NLRB Chair, said that the NFL is "facing an image crisis over its handling of concussions and health issues," the controversy surrounding the Redskins nickname and the "coarse culture of locker rooms." Gould said, "All of these things suggest that the game is insufficiently sensitive to both civility, good manners and fair treatment. This is something that's going to become increasingly important" (L.A. TIMES, 2/15). In DC, Kent Babb wrote the "culture of intolerance" found in the Dolphins' locker room is "precisely the kind of image the league has been trying to put in its past" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/15).
GOODELL'S CHANCE: SPORTS ON EARTH's Tomas Rios wrote the report is a "damning document." This is Goodell's "opportunity to do right by Martin's bravery." The "most Goodell can do now is make sure the change actually happens" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/14). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote under the header, "Goodell Needs To Send Message And Eliminate Culture Of Harassment" (SI.com, 2/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote the NFL "needs to stand up for Jonathan Martin and more important, the next Jonathan Martin" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/15). In Chicago, David Haugh wrote, "Character now threatens to make a comeback in the NFL. One can hope. A violent game on Sundays need not be vile the rest of the week" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/16). In Illinois, Barry Rozner wrote the report is the "advent of forward thinking for a league that's been culturally stuck in a different millennium" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/16). In Miami, Fred Grimm wrote, "The brand has been damaged. Something must be done. Tough new workplace rules are surely coming. And soon" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/16). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan wrote under the header, "Exposing Bullies Could Change NFL For The Better" (Bergen RECORD, 2/15). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote the NFL's growth "mandates more formal boundaries for workplace behavior" (ESPN.com, 2/14). In Chicago, Rick Telander wrote it is time the NFL "stopped tolerating" bullying (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/15).
THE NEXT STEP: YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Adelson wrote the NFL "must be made safe for work." Goodell "needs to strongly convey that the NFL is a workplace of employees" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/15). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton wrote Goodell is "all about messages, and there’s a profound one to deliver" in this case. The "juvenile culture inside of NFL locker rooms must change" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/16). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote, "Look for the league to quickly focus on these big-picture realities, finding a way to craft new policies, to teach them to players, and to hold them responsible for complying" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 2/14). In N.Y., William Rhoden wrote if Goodell is the "law-and-order sheriff he claims to be, Incognito’s career should be over, or at the very least, he should be suspended for a season" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16). Rhoden said of Incognito, "This guy should never play another down of football in the National Football League. If Goodell does anything short of that, it probably invalidates almost everything he's said and done about being the sheriff in the NFL behavior" ("CBS This Morning Saturday," CBS, 2/15). Meanwhile, ESPN's Pablo Torre said Ross "has to clean house," and anybody who was "involved in the executive structure that allowed this to fester and rot should probably be out of a job." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said he felt "sorry" for NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith because he is "probably going to have to find some way to defend Incognito's right to continue his labor as a professional football player, and I just don't see how that's going to be possible" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/14)
HOW WILL SPONSORS REACT? In N.Y., Juliet Macur wrote under the header, "NFL Sponsors Need To Act." The "best way to effect real change would be for the league’s corporate sponsors to take a stand." Companies like Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and Visa "hold the only lever that really matters -- the purse strings." The sponsors, "more than two dozen of them, should recognize that they are promoting a workplace in the NFL that instills fear in some of its employees, while mortifying others." Macur: "Does any CEO whose company already pours money into the league want to change the league for the better?" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15).