owner Stephen Ross (l.) and head coach Joe Philbin have a lot of cleaning up to do. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
On Monday, as the Miami Dolphins were preparing to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross conducted a press conference and released a statement with his thoughts and subsequent actions on the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation.
Ross said that he was "appalled" by the reports of racist and abusive communication via phone and text from Incognito to Martin. "I think anybody would be appalled," Ross said. "When you first read that text that was reported, to me I didn't realize people would talk, text or speak that way."
Ross also said that he plans to meet with Martin, the second-year offensive tackle who left the team on Oct. 28 following what is claimed to be a long history of hazing. As the case developed, Incognito, a veteran offensive guard, was suspended indefinitely from the team.
"I'm going to meet with Jonathan Martin face to face and hear what he has to say," Ross said. "Then, I will deal with it from there. So much has been said about a lot of different things."
In his statement, Ross revealed that he has established an independent advisory council to look into the culture of the team's locker room. This council is separate from the investigation that the NFL is conducting at Ross' request.
“We have been careful in our statements and in our comments, as we have not wanted to make a rush to judgment until we know all of the facts," Ross said in his statement. "We still don’t have a full picture of the facts. However, I want to be clear, that I and the Miami Dolphins organization are committed to getting to the bottom of this issue and making any necessary changes to improve our organization.
"In the past two weeks, our primary concern has been for Jonathan Martin. Immediately after learning that Jonathan left the team, I spoke with head coach Joe Philbin and Joe visited with Jonathan in person that evening. Over the ensuing days, both Joe and I reached out to Jonathan to express our concern and to offer our support. Jonathan and I have exchanged texts as recently as this weekend, and I am scheduled to meet with him in person to see how he is doing and to listen to his concerns."
The advisory group will consist of former head coaches Tony Dungy and Don Shula, as well as ex-NFL players Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin.
"Together, these men bring integrity, respect and diverse experiences to the discussion, some having just recently retired from the locker room," Ross said. "Joe Philbin and others will be a part of the process, as will current Dolphin players. I want to be clear: this effort is to improve the Miami Dolphins only and is not intended to be a blueprint for other franchises. The working group will begin its charge after the season."
Both Martin and Incognito have most recently been in California. Martin has sought counsel from attorney David Cornwell, while Incognito did a long interview with FOX Sports' Jay Glazer in which he claimed that Martin's impressions of the incidents did not jibe with his.
“This isn’t an issue about bullying,” Incognito told Glazer. “This is an issue of my and John’s relationship. You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room, ‘Who had John Martin’s back the absolute most?’ and they’ll undoubtedly tell you [that it was] me. All this stuff coming out … it speaks to the culture of our locker room. It speaks to the culture of our closeness. It speaks to the culture of our brotherhood. The racism, the bad words … that’s what I regret most, but that is a product of the environment, and that’s something we use all the time.”
Ross wasn't buying it -- clearly, the incentive now in Miami is to alter the culture on a no-matter-what basis.
The NFL locker room is a special place, no doubt, but that does not mean that different rules of decency and respect should be in play," Ross concluded. "Winning championships is what we are all about, but we cannot do so if any of our family members are challenged from reaching their potential."