With the Ted Wells report expected to be released later this week, someone finally has leaked to the media the text messages exchanged over a period of months between Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.
Presumably, the leak came from Incognito or someone close to him, because the text messages tend to support the notion that Incognito and Martin were friends. Moreover, nothing in the Incognito text messages suggests harassment or bullying of Martin.
The Big Lead had gotten the goods, and I’ve taken a look through them all. The major takeaways appear below:
1. Incognito accuses Martin of being gay in multiple text messages. It’s difficult to tell whether Incognito is joking, or whether he believed Martin to be gay. Martin’s actual or perceived sexuality has been a lingering (but largely unspoken) explanation for the decision of Dolphins players to allegedly single him out. After reading all of the messages, it appears Incognito is joking about Martin being gay.
2. Martin declines to pay $6,000 for a trip to Las Vegas, but Incognito seems to be fine with it. “It’s all good,” Incognito says. “Let me know if u need anything.”
3. At the time left tackle Jake Long chose to sign with the Rams over the Dolphins, Incognito texted that former G.M. Jeff Ireland “didn’t make him feel welcome.” (That’s unrelated to the Martin-Incognito case, but it helps explain why Long took a lesser deal to go to St. Louis.)
4. At one point, Incognito asks Martin if Martin went to Mike Pouncey’s house after going to a bar. Martin says he didn’t, saying “No drugs for me rest of season.” That comment could attract the NFL’s attention on the question of whether multiple members of the team had engaged in illegal use of drugs, recreational or otherwise.
5. The messages reflect a genuine friendship, even after Martin left the team in late October. Incognito repeatedly reached out to Martin following his exit, culminating with this message on October 29, the day after Martin exited the locker room: “What’s up dude Glad to hear Ur ok I’m here if you ever need to talk. I’ve been through enough sh-t myself to understand.”
Several hours later, Incognito texts, “I miss Ur stinky armpits.” On November 1 (three days later), Incognito texts, “How u doing buddy? Feeling better?? I miss us.”
Martin promptly responds, saying: “Wassup man? The worlds gone crazy lol I’m good tho congrats on the win.”
Says Incognito in response, two minutes later: “Thanks dude It’s unbelievable all the attention this is getting. All that’s important is that you feel better and know we miss u dude.”
Says Martin, that same minute: “Yeah I’m good man. It’s insane bro but just know I don’t blame you guys at all it’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little. Btw… Never check yourself into a mental hospital.”
Incognito responds two minutes later, acknowledging that he once indeed checked himself in to a mental-health facility: “I hear ya It’s a lot to take in I’ve checked myself in before I had to threaten to beat everyone up for them to let me out. Not fun.”
The back-and-forth continues a bit longer. Several hours later, Incognito sends to Martin a link to the ESPN story that places blame on Incognito for Martin’s situation. “What’s up with this?” Incognito asks.
“I got nothing to do with it man I haven’t said anything to anyone,” Martin says.
The last three messages come from Incognito, with no response from Martin. Incognito says, “I heard it’s all coming from Ur agent? I need you buddy I’m getting killed in the media. Bro can we talk? The dolphins are talking about releasing me.”
That’s the end of the text messages. Martin, possibly acting on advice from an agent or his lawyer, cut off all communication with Incognito. Based on the picture painted by the text messages, however, it may have been too late, if the goal was to suggest that Incognito subjected Martin to repeated behavior that Incognito knew or should have known was unwelcome.
In other words, it’s going to be very hard to persuade anyone that Incognito behaved inappropriately, based on the text messages. Richie was simply being Richie, and Martin voluntarily interacted with him over an extended period of time before suddenly walking away from the team — with no warning in the text messages that Martin was about to snap.
Bottom line? Whatever Martin hopes to prove, the text messages don’t help.