Cleveland (WOIO) - Five days after NFL prospect Michael Sam's announcement generated league-wide support, and seemingly brought locker room culture into the 21st century, NFL investigator Ted Wells' report brought it back to the Stone Age again.
Wells' 144-page report found that Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry subjected teammate Jonathan Martin to a barrage of assaults on a daily basis, including racial slurs, and sexual taunts concerning his mother and sister. The report also found abuse of another player that included homophobic slurs and inappropriate touching, and determined that offensive line coach Jim Turner participated in some of the abuse. An assistant trainer who is Japanese was also the victim of racial slurs.
So where does it go from here? Actually, the timing of this report is perfect, because while some front office men around the league said (off the record, of course) that they'd steer clear of signing Sam because of the locker room dynamic, the reaction to Incognito's bullying is so strong, it could help pave the way for more tolerance and acceptance.
If the unnamed second Dolphins player, who was on the receiving end of homophobic slurs (they once gave him a male blow-up doll as a gift), is in fact gay, and was afraid to come out because he feared the treatment that he ended up receiving anyway, he may now find that far more teammates and fans are accepting of his lifestyle than he thought, and that the bullies on the team are the ones who'll be ostracized.
Incognito is a free agent, and is likely finished in the NFL. Martin's agent says it's "100%" that his client will play next season, somewhere. And you can bet that the league will use this report as a platform to crack down on bullying.
As for Michael Sam's future in the NFL, it will have its share of challenges. But Friday's report doesn't have to be a sign of things to come. More likely, it opens more eyes, and minds, and should end up only helping him.
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