The Ted Wells report makes no recommendations regarding potential discipline for any of the persons determined to have engaged in wrongdoing. For Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner, it doesn’t have to.
Apart from reaching the attention-grabbing conclusion that Turner gave former Dolphins offensive lineman Andrew McDonald a male “blow-up” doll as participation in the “running joke” that McDonald was gay, the report rejects on multiple occasions the truthfulness of information supplied by Turner during meetings with investigators.
Regarding the “blow-up” doll, for example, the report explains that Turner hid behind a lack of memory when confronted with information that he had given the doll to McDonald.
“We do not believe that Turner forgot this incident,” the report states, “which many others recalled.”
Turner also denied hearing the persistent homophobic comments to McDonald. The report states that “we do not find his denial credible.”
In both instances, that’s a very polite way of saying Turner lied. For many American employers, lying to investigators retained for the purposes of exploring an important issue of potential workplace misconduct is grounds for immediate termination.
The report also finds — again politely — that Turner denied knowledge of the so-called “Judas” fine, imposed when for example an offensive lineman blames a mistake appearing in game film on a teammate.
“Turner . . . denied knowing what the term ‘Judas’ meant in the context of the Dolphins offensive line,” the report explains. “In fact, he denied ever hearing the term ‘Judas’ or ‘Judas fine’ used in the offensive line room. He also denied lecturing the players on its meaning. We do not credit Turner’s denials. The evidence shows that Turner was aware of the ‘Judas’ concept and that he had discussed its meaning with the linemen, explaining how Judas had betrayed Jesus Christ and defining Judas as a ‘snitch.’”
Turner apparently played the Sgt. Schulz card because the concept of the “Judas” fine helps explain Jonathan Martin’s position that he couldn’t have reported the abuse he believed he was suffering to Turner or others in the organization. “Martin believed that going to his coaches or other authority figures meant risking ostracism or even retaliation from his fellow linemen,” the report observes.
Still, Turner should have told the truth, especially on such a critical matter. The Wells report finds that Turner didn’t tell the truth in at least three instances, and that likely will be more than enough evidence to support a decision by owner Stephen Ross to end Turner’s employment.
Even without lying to investigators, Turner’s text messages to Martin following Martin’s departure from the team provide grounds for immediate termination. According to the report, Turner repeatedly urged Martin to “DO THE RIGHT THING” and issue a statement exonerating Richie Incognito.
“When he sent these messages,” the report explains, “Turner knew that Martin had left the team unexpectedly, had hospitalized himself in connection with a mental health condition and that Martin had previously struggled with serious psychological problems and had contemplated suicide. We accept that Turner may have believed in good faith that Incognito was being unfairly attacked by the media, but [Turner] should have realized it was inappropriate to send such text messages to an emotionally troubled player.”
That’s a diplomatic way of saying Turner went way over the line by trying to command Martin, who already was in a fragile state, into doing something that would have helped Incognito and, in turn, Turner. With so much focus on whether the players bullied Martin, the inescapable conclusion reached when reading the multiple “DO THE RIGHT THING” text messages from Turner to Martin is that Turner was trying to bully Martin, too.
As hard as it is to envision Martin returning to the Dolphins’ locker room, it’s even harder to imagine Turner showing up for work there again. And while plenty of players apparently don’t want Martin back, they’ll likely react negatively, and strongly, if/when Turner is fired.
That’s because the concept of doing the right thing has gotten skewed and twisted in the Miami Dolphins locker room. Efforts to now straighten things out will be met with resistance by some of the men who like it the way it is.
The best way to start getting their attention could be to do the right thing and conclude that Turner’s conduct toward Martin and McDonald, Turner’s creation of an atmosphere where reporting problems was viewed as “snitching,” and most importantly his trio of lies to investigators trying to get to the bottom of the situation makes him unqualified to continue in his current job.
Does Turner deserve a second chance? Absolutely. But he doesn’t deserve to get that second chance from the organization Turner ultimately betrayed by lying to the people who were trying to find out what happened to prompt Jonathan Martin to leave the team.