(Reuters) - Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said on Monday he had arranged a meeting for Wednesday with Jonathan Martin, the player who left the team saying he was emotionally distraught over being bullied by team mates.
Ross said he was “appalled” by some of the revelations in the case that has captured widespread public attention over the so-called clubhouse culture on the Dolphins and other National Football League teams.
Fellow lineman Richie Incognito, who was singled out by Martin, has already been suspended indefinitely by the National Football League team, and the NFL has announced an independent investigation into the matter.
“I’d like to hear from him (Martin) about what happened and what made him feel that way,” Ross told a news conference in Tampa before Monday night’s game between the Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first public comments on the case.
“And what we could have done to prevent this from happening.”
Ross said he had utmost confidence in his staff including coach Joe Philbin, but said that if the independent probe found there needed to be changes, “then there will be changes.”
Martin, a second-round draft pick in 2012 who started all 16 games last year and the first seven games this season, left the team at the end of October suffering from emotional distress and representatives of his later informed the club of the alleged bullying and abuse by team mates.
Thousands of dollars were demanded to pay for dinners and a Las Vegas outing organized by veteran players, according to claims made by Martin’s representatives that also included other forms of verbal abuse.
A text message sent from Incognito to Martin, laced with racial epithets and violent threats, that was published particularly disgusted the team owner.
”I was appalled, I think anybody would be appalled, when you first read that text that was reported,“ Ross said. ”I didn’t realize people speak that way to people.
“We have to hear all the facts in this story,” added Ross. “There’s so many different things that are being said. I‘m going to meet with Jonathan Martin face to face and hear what he has to say.”
Ross said he also planned to meet with Incognito. “He deserves to be heard,” the owner said.
Incognito has apologized for his insensitive remarks but added he was shocked at Martin’s reaction.
“People don’t know how Jon and I communicate with each other,” Incognito told Fox Sports on Sunday. “I’ve taken stuff too far. I did not intend to hurt him.”
Ross said he had established a committee to advise him on proper clubhouse conduct comprised of former NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Don Shula, and former players Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin.
”These are people that have as much respect as anybody to play or coach the game,“ said Ross. ”They can give me advice on a personal code of conduct for the locker room.
“I think in any locker room, any workplace, every voice needs to be heard. Obviously, there was a voice that we were not hearing.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Gene Cherry