The Dolphins swiftly and publicly reprimanded Don Jones late Sunday for his Twitter remarks critical of Michael Sam, fining him and barring him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.
In a statement released by the team, Jones apologized for tweeting “omg” and “horrible” after seeing Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his partner on national TV Saturday evening. Sam had just been drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round, becoming the first openly gay player selected by an NFL team.
“I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media,” said Jones, a backup defensive back. “I take full responsibility for them, and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment.
“I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team, and I wish him all the best in his NFL career. I sincerely apologize to Mr. [Stephen] Ross, my teammates, coaches, staff and fans for these tweets. I am committed to represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization and appreciate the opportunity I have been given to do so going forward.”
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Although the Dolphins did not disclose the amount of the fine, the fact that they made the punishment public was significant. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin rarely discusses internal discipline with reporters but made it a point to condemn Jones’ words on official team letterhead Sunday night.
“We were disappointed to read Don’s tweets during the NFL Draft,” Philbin said. “They were inappropriate and unacceptable, and we regret the negative impact these comments had on such an important weekend for the NFL. We met with Don [Sunday] about respect, discrimination and judgment. These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program. We will continue to emphasize and educate our players that these statements will not be tolerated.”
The Dolphins have been striving to improve both their reputation and the level of discourse within their locker room after an embarrassing 2013 season that was marred by a bullying scandal involving offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who is no longer with the team.
NFL investigator Ted Wells determined that Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito and John Jerry engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at teammates and Dolphins staff.
In the time since, Ross commissioned a New York University study on ways to promote civility and respect in sports. He even helped introduce an anti-bullying bill in the Tallahassee, but the effort ultimately stalled in the Florida Statehouse.
Despite the team’s best efforts to clean up its image, the Dolphins have had to deal with two embarrassing incidents on Twitter the past week.
Two days before Jones’ remarks, Pouncey took to social media to welcome first-round pick Ja’Wuan James: “Great pick! I can’t wait for our gifts he’s getting us lol.”
Pouncey, who could still be suspended by the league for his role in the bullying scandal, has since deleted his Twitter account.