People hate lawyers until they need them. And then when lawyers tell them what to do and they don’t want to do it, they hate the lawyers again.
In Miami, the Dolphins need a good lawyer — and they need to listen to him or her or them.
The public comments from players like receiver Brian Hartline and tackle Tyson Clabo show that the Dolphins either haven’t sought legal advice, or they haven’t implemented it. Or, perhaps, that they’ve tried and the players decided to defy the instructions they received, in a Grambling-style revolt against management.
Here’s what should have happened. Coach Joe Philbin should have called a meeting of all players, coaches, and football personnel, at which Philbin would have introduced Dolphins General Counsel Adam Zissman and Senior Director of Human Resources Yolando Valencia. (Owner Stephen Ross would have attended the meeting to demonstrate the importance of the issue.)
Zissman and Valencia then would have shared with the players the following message: “NFL policy prohibits retaliation and will not tolerate any attempt at retaliation against any person, who, in good faith, makes or assists in making a complaint under our policies.”
Next, Zissman and Valencia would have explained what this means, via concrete examples of things they shouldn’t do or say in relation to tackle Jonathan Martin. They specifically would have been told not to say anything suggesting any degree of anger or frustration with Martin, and they would have been told to never mention anything about the situation to Martin and to treat him no differently because of it.
Then, Philbin would have reiterated the bottom line — don’t say anything about Martin, don’t say anything to Martin, don’t say or do anything that would suggest any frustration with or resentment of Martin.
The worst situation for the Dolphins and Philbin would be if the Dolphins and Philbin did just that, and that the players have decided to ignore the instruction.
Regardless, Hartline and Clabo have proven that an environment of retaliation against Martin already exists. Which makes it difficult if not impossible for Martin to ever return to the team.
Apart from the league’s investigation, the Dolphins need to assess the failure of the football operation, the business operation, or both to seek proper legal advice and to ensure that it gets implemented.