James Walker | ESPN.com
TAMPA, Fla. — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he plans to meet with offensive tackle Jonathan Martin on Wednesday, and promised to get to the bottom of claims that Martin was bullied and harassed by teammate Richie Incognito.
Ross confirmed he has been in communication with Martin via text messages. Miami’s owner said he will not deal with speculation and will get as much information as possible from the source.
“I’m going to meet with Jonathan Martin face to face and hear what he has to say,” Ross said Monday at Raymond James Stadium before the Dolphins’ game against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Then, I will deal with it from there. So much has been said about a lot of different things.”
Ross promised to make changes throughout the organization following the NFL’s investigation. He described the situation as a “nightmare” and was not happy with the negative media attention his team has gotten due to the actions in his locker room.
Incognito admitted he made graphic racial slurs and threats via voice mails and text messages toward Martin. However, in an interview with Fox Sports, Incognito claimed Martin did the same and that was a normal aspect of their friendship. Incognito also claimed that racial slurs and crass language were part of the normal culture in the Dolphins’ locker room, which further put a black eye on the team.
“I was appalled. I think anybody would be appalled,” Ross said. “When you first read that text that was reported, to me I didn’t realize people would talk, text or speak that way.”
Ross is setting up a task force to improve the culture within the Dolphins’ locker room. Ross announced a group of former coaches and players that included Tony Dungy, Don Shula, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin.
“Steve called me and said he wasn’t sure what happened,” Dungy said. “He’s in the process of finding that out. But he wants to look forward and see how he could ensure their locker room and whole organization was operating in the best way. He wanted to get some former players that he respects and former coaches and put together a recommendation of best practices.
“… I think he wanted to get some ex-Dolphins. I think he wanted to get some guys that he respected that could say, ‘This is how football is. This is normal. This is what we had in great locker rooms and this is how you get it.’ I think he picked some great guys.”
The group, which Ross wants to eventually expand to seven or nine people, will offer advice to both the owner and coach Joe Philbin on how to create a better in-house culture in Miami.
“These are probably people who have as much respect as anybody who have ever played or coached the game,” Ross said.
Ross praised Philbin but said no one is above repercussions based on the NFL investigation.
Martin left the team Oct. 28 following a lunchroom incident and hasn’t returned. Martin hired lawyer David Cornwell, who claimed Martin was harassed by multiple players, including Incognito. ESPN’s Lisa Salters reported Martin does not want to return to the Dolphins.
Ross said he hadn’t heard of any bullying or harassment of Martin before he left the team. Ross also said he plans to meet with Incognito at some point, although nothing has been scheduled.
The billionaire real-estate mogul appeared embarrassed by the allegations and apologized Monday to Dolphins fans for the team being in this position. Ross said he will be very proactive to improve Miami’s locker room culture quickly and will make a “code of conduct that suits the 21st century.”
“There will not be any racial slurs or harassing or bullying in that workplace, in that locker room and outside that locker room,” Ross said sternly.
The Dolphins (4-4) play the Buccaneers (0-8) this week on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
- A Temple graduate and Hyattsville, Md., native who lives in Miami
- Joined ESPN in 2008