In October 2013, former Wolverine football lineman Jonathan Martin ’08 ignited a national bullying debate after leaving the NFL Miami Dolphins and claiming to be bullied by his Miami teammates. Now, Martin will get the chance to start anew in his home state of California, as the alumnus was traded from the Dolphins to the San Francisco 49ers Tuesday night.
Martin’s future in the NFL looked uncertain following his midseason leave of absence and bullying allegations, which pointed out fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito as a main aggressor in the bullying of Martin. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he expected neither Martin nor Incognito would play for the Dolphins again, and Martin indeed did not return to the team for the remainder of the 2013-2014 NFL season. A few media outlets questioned whether Martin would ever play in the NFL again.
Soon after leaving the Dolphins, Martin reportedly traveled home to California to be with family, and Harvard-Westlake football players said they saw Martin in the stands during the football team’s game against Chaminade.
“He was a great athlete here and has been accomplished not only here, but beyond here,” Harvard-Westlake Head of Athletics Terry Barnum said after Martin left the team in October. “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.”
The claims that Martin faced bullying from his Miami teammates that included racial epithets and sexual comments about family members were affirmed in a report by NFL investigator Ted Wells, which was released in February. While Incognito and other Dolphins claimed their behavior towards Martin was part of the locker room culture and the nature of their relationship, Wells concluded in his report that Incognito with fellow Dolphins Mike Pouncey and John Jerry “engaged in a pattern of harrassment not only towards Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and a member of the training staff.”
“Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments,” Wells wrote in the summary of the report.
Martin was sent to San Francisco in exchange for a conditional draft pick, ESPN reports, on the first day of NFL free agency. Returning to the Bay Area, Martin will find a familiar face in the 49ers locker room as he links up with San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh, for whom the lineman played football at Stanford University after graduating from Harvard-Westlake.