Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Monday he was “appalled” when he heard about the team’s bullying scandal, but pledged not to rush to judgment before all the facts are known.
However, he does plan to change the culture within the organization, forming two committees – one external, the other internal – to make it happen.
Ross, the team’s owner since 2009, spoke at length before Miami’s nationally televised game against the Buccaneers. The press conference came two weeks to the day after Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team, the catalyst of one of the darkest periods in franchise history.
In the days since, Martin has accused his Dolphins teammates of mental and physical harassment that his attorney David Cornwell said “went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.”
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Ross said he has been in communication with Jonathan Martin via text message, and plans to meet with him Wednesday to hear his side of the story. However, Ross did not commit to meeting with Richie Incognito, who has been suspended indefinitely.
“I apologize to the fans for being in this position, but I know we will come out of this in a better position,” Ross said.
Furthermore, Ross threw his full support behind his head coach, saying: “I have total, utmost confidence in Joe Philbin as our coach.”
As for embattled general manager Jeff Ireland? His name was barely mentioned.
Ross has assembled a group of football luminaries to craft a “21st century” code of conduct. The group includes Dolphins icons Don Shula, Dan Marino and Jason Taylor, along with retired Colts coach Tony Dungy and Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin.
Ross explained: “These are people who have as much respect as anybody.”
Speaking for the first time publicly since this national imbroglio erupted, Ross said his first reaction was shock and disgust.
“I think anybody would be appalled,” Ross said. “When you first read the texts ... I didn’t realize that people would speak that way.”
However, he did not want to make a snap judgment, so he reached out to commissioner Roger Goodell, who launched an independent inquiry led by respected attorney Ted Wells.
“We want to know the truth,” said Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel, on the job for just two months. “Everyone in our organization has been instructed to cooperate fully. How we respond to this situation is a way for us to learn a lot about ourselves.”
Garfinkel will lead an internal review of the organization’s policies and procedures. Philbin, Ireland and executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte will help him.
During the 15-minute briefing, which was carried live locally, Ross largely kept an even tone. But at times, particularly when discussing the details of the alleged misconduct, his voice sharpened.
He said the world has changed, and that locker room norms should change with it. Bullying and racial slurs have no place on his team, Ross said.
How did he describe this entire ordeal?