Martin ’08 leaves NFL team, sparks national bullying debate

Jonathan Martin ’08 spent three years serving as both a sentinel for quarterbacks John Howe ’07 and Sean Berman ’09 on the offensive line and as a predator for opposing backfields on the defensive line. Martin contributed to a new winning trend for the Wolverine football team, which moved upward from its 2-8 record the year before Martin’s varsity arrival to 8-4 his senior year.

After graduating in 2008, Martin continued playing the offensive line for four years at Stanford University, notably shielding current Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side.
On April 26, 2012, Martin realized every football player’s dream when he was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the 2012 National Football League Draft. In a year and a half, Martin started 23 games as the Dolphins’ left tackle, then protecting Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

But Martin’s career blocking for the Dolphins was brought to an abrupt halt when he suddenly left the team Oct. 31 and allegations subsequently surfaced that Martin was bullied throughout his time with the Dolphins.

The NFL and NFL Players’ Association have since employed attorneys to investigate bullying in the Dolphins organization.

Martin returned to his family in Los Angeles and attended the Harvard-Westlake football team’s 73-0 loss to Chaminade Nov. 1. The same day, the Harvard-Westlake Athletic Department issued a brief statement backing him.

“Harvard-Westlake is extremely proud of Jonathan Martin and everything he accomplished as a student at our school,” the department said in the statement. “We remain supportive of him and his family.” Head of Athletics Terry Barnum reiterated the school’s support in a separate comment to the Chronicle.

“Jonathan is a great kid, [he] comes from a great family,” Barnum said. “He was a great athlete here and has been accomplished not only here, but beyond here. We are proud of him, we support him and only want what’s best for him. We are giving his family space to deal with this. Obviously this is a serious issue. We want to just be there and be supportive of him.”

Though details continue to be reported in the media, a full picture of Martin’s bullying situation remains blurry.  The alumnus’s representatives and attorney released statements that Martin had constantly suffered from actions “exceeding hazing” since being drafted by the Dolphins in April 2012. Several national outlets have named fellow Miami lineman Richie Incognito as a lead aggressor in Martin’s harassment. ESPN acquired a transcript of a voicemail Incognito left Martin earlier this year, in which Incognito directed racial slurs towards the former Wolverine and said he’d, among other things, “kill [Martin].” ESPN reported that Martin gave Incognito $15,000 for a team trip, though Martin himself did not travel with the group, stating that Martin “fear[ed] the consequences if he did not hand over the money.”

On Nov. 11, ESPN cited a source that said Martin was unlikely to play for the Dolphins again. Martin himself has yet to publicly speak on the issue.
Several Wolverine coaches declined to speak on Martin’s situation, saying they did not want to jump to conclusions before all the details came out. Most football players declined to comment on the record, in adherence with coachess’ orders. Students and administration who did agree to speak about the issue kept their comments brief and general.

“All I can say is I wish him the best of luck,” football linebacker Desmond Butler ’15 said.
Former football head Vic Eumont, who coached Martin during his Harvard-Westlake football career, talked to the Palm Beach Post shortly after Martin left the team.

“Before, he wasn’t around Nebraska, LSU kind of guys,” Eumont, said. “He’s always been around Stanford, Duke, Rice kind of players. In locker rooms full of Nebraska, LSU, Southern Cal players, Miami players – they’ll look at this as a weakness. If he makes it through all this, and if he was encouraged to come back, he’d come back with a vengeance.”

Coach Greg Hilliard, who coached Martin as a member of the Wolverine basketball team, said that “Jonathan was a great team member, and we have his back. We hope everything works out for him.”
The Chronicle contacted Martin, who said he was “not talking to the media at this time.”
Head of Upper School and former Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas emphasized the morals Harvard-Westlake instills in athletes such as Martin.

“At Harvard-Westlake, we try to teach with everything that we do, including teaching how to do things the right way and teaching what’s the right way to be with every single thing we do – arts, academics, athletics, operations, everything,” Barzdukas said. “We try and teach, and I think that our students leave here with a sense of what’s the right thing to do and what’s the right way to be.”

ESPN reported that Incognito felt “betrayed” by Martin’s bullying claims. The veteran Incognito told Fox Sports One Nov. 10 that Martin sent Incognito text messages of similar nature. Additionally, several of Martin’s Dolphin teammates have voiced support for Incognito.

Martin’s allegations have caused division about bullying throughout the sports world, including at Harvard-Westlake. While 69.4 percent of the Harvard-Westlake students that responded to a November Chronicle poll said Martin did the right thing by leaving the team, only 7 percent said they would leave their sports team as Martin did, temporarily or permanently. Rather, 48.7% said they would verbally confront the bully, 34.4 percent said they would confront the bully, and 9.9 percent said they would physically confront the bully.

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