For the first time since tackle Jonathan Martin left the team and allegations of player misconduct surfaces, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross met with the media today. Martin left the Dolphins two weeks ago, filing a complaint five days later of player misconduct aimed at the players in the locker room and specifically at guard Richie Incognito. According to Martin and his representation, the harassment Martin suffered went far beyond the normal rookie hazing and led to Martin being unable to continue in the locker room culture of the Dolphins.
Ross, who appeared at Raymond James Stadium ahead of tonight's Monday Night Football game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, started him comments by saying the health and well being of Martin is the number one priority, then repeatedly stressed throughout the media availability that he is going to get to the truth, but that the team does not know what is the truth yet. Appearing with Ross was new Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkle, who reiterated Ross' comments by saying, "There's been a lot of information pushed into the public, and we simply don't know what did or did not happen yet."
Ross said he will meet with Martin on Wednesday, but said he will not say when Wednesday or where that meeting will occur.
This week, it has been reported that the NFL is concerned that Ross is an absentee owner, spending most of his time at his business interests in New York rather than around the team in Miami. However, both Ross and Garfinkle stated that, with today's communications, Ross is in constant communication with the team. Ross said he has spoken with head coach Joe Philbin "at least daily" and Garfinkle said he and Ross are "on the phone every day."
Ross sad he has not wanted to "rush to judgement" and that was why he had not spoken out about the situation until today. He continued, saying, "I don't want to make any excuses. I want our workplace to be the best you can find in the NFL." Ross showed some emotion when he added, "There will not be any racial slurs, or harassing, or bullying, in that workplace, in that locker room, and outside the locker room."
The team, according to Ross, is setting up a committee to address the locker room environment. Currently, he said there are five members on the committee, Don Shula, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Curtis Martin, and he plans to expand it to seven-to-nine members. Ross wants the committee to establish a code of conduct that suits the 21st century.
Asked about the specific allegations of bullying, and if he had heard about it, Ross said, "I've never heard about bullying. Coach [Philbin] didn't hear it. Nobody heard it."
But, he then added, "Every voice, every person, needs to be heard. Obviously, there was a voice that wasn't being heard."
While the Dolphins owner repeatedly said he has "full confidence" in his staff, saying Philbin's name multiple times during the press conference, but also said "If we have to make changes, we will make changes," once the NFL's report comes out. Ross asked the NFL to conduct the interview to ensure it had no appearance of the team trying to sweep anything under the rug, or simply answer their own questions.
Ross said, as the press conference ended, that every member of the organization cares and that they will get to the truth, and figure out exactly what to do from there.
The Dolphins kick off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 8:40pm ET tonight in the league's finale for the Week 10 schedule.
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