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Dolphins' Stephen Ross addresses Jonathan Martin situation

  • By NFL.com
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Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross publicly addressed the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito controversy for the first time Monday during a news conference. Below is Ross' opening statement, which came just hours before the Dolphins took on the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers on "Monday Night Football."

"For those who don't know, I'm Steve Ross. I'd like to thank you all for coming today. We haven't wanted to really rush to judgments. We're waiting for all of the facts to come in. So I've been silent pretty much in terms of talking to the press. I'm sure that when we're done with this, that our organization will get better because I really care about this organization. It's important to me, and what's gone on is really something that couldn't be a worse nightmare.

"But we've taken four steps. We believe in being very proactive in this, but the most important thing is we care about Jonathan Martin, number one. Immediately after the incident took place in the cafeteria, (coach) Joe Philbin called me. He told me what had happened, that he was trying go out and find Jonathan Martin. I've been in constant communication at least every day with Mr. Philbin, and knowing the caring that he has, and how the organization has, in the well-being of Jonathan Martin.

"I have reached out to Jonathan Martin. I have texted him. We have communicated via text, and I plan to meet with him in person very shortly.

"When this all happened, when it broke, when I heard the news, I also reached out to the NFL because I knew an investigation had to take place. I called (NFL Commissioner) Roger (Goodell) and told him because I thought if we did an investigation, we wouldn't have the credibility, because people would think we're just looking for an answer. So having an independent investigation, I thought, was very important.

"We want to get to the bottom of it. We want to hear what all the real facts are. There's been so much said and done to date that I don't think anybody really knows what has happened because no one has really spoken with Jonathan Martin directly. We've examined all of our policies within the organization. Joe Philbin is probably one of the most organized people I've ever met. I interviewed him. That stood out, but what also stood out is his character. I don't think there is a better person, a more respected person, a more caring person in the National Football League than Joe Philbin. I think you could see that that when you saw "Hard Knocks" and how he wanted to show people what we stood for in his rookie year. It's unheard of that a coach -- most coaches don't want to be on that at all, let alone in their first year. He wanted to be on that in the first year because he wanted people to know what we stood for.

"I know that as this goes forward, that one, changes need to be made. We need to look at ourselves. We have to examine everything internally. I know this is so appalling to me. I know that I am capable of overreacting. I also want to get everybody's feedback because we all know that the football locker room is a different workplace than most of us are accustomed to. Basically, I don't want to make any excuses. I want to know that our workplace going forward will be the best workplace that you can find in the NFL. I plan on being very proactive in doing so.

"I have asked and formed a committee. I have five people that are members of that committee. I look to expand it to seven to nine to protect me from -- and them, the players -- from my overreacting. And having a code of conduct that will suit the 21st century. You know the world today is changing, and I think we all have to adapt to change.

"I think that what's come out of this. You have to look and hear what people are saying, what people are feeling, and the fact seeing this room today with as many reporters that are here, tells me and we all -- have gathered all week. When you can't pick up the newspapers in any city, or watch television without hearing about this. So when things like that happen, you know change is needed. People care, and we care, and we're going to make sure we are the best organization in the National Football League.

"So we as the Miami Dolphins are setting up -- or I am setting up for me -- the Miami Dolphins committee. The members to date are Tony Dungy, Don Shula, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin. I've looked at several people before. These are probably people that have as much respect as anybody that ever played or coached the game. They care about their players. They care what happens. And they also can give me the advice working with Joe Philbin because I have the total utmost confidence in Joe Philbin in a coach.

"This is where we are today. I look forward to meeting with Jonathan Martin, discovering the facts, and then do what happens based on the facts as they come out to be. I'm committed to winning championships in Miami and making us the best possible franchise we possibly can be. I apologize to the fans for being in this position, but I know we will come out of this as a better organization. I've asked Tom Garfinkel, our CEO, to head up our task force to coordinate everything, and I'd like to introduce him now. Tom?"

Dolphins president and chief executive officer Tom Garfinkel subsequently addressed the media.

"Thank you, Steve. When I came to the Dolphins back in September, I noted that we want to earn the support of our fans, and the trust and respect of our peers, not just by what we do but how we do it. How we respond to this situation is certainly an opportunity for us to learn a lot about ourselves. That includes, as Steve said, not rushing to judgment before we have all the facts.

"There's been a lot of information pushed out into the public, and we simply don't know what happened or didn't happen yet. I do know this. Steve Ross is passionate about building a best-in-class organization, and he won't compromise his values to make sure that as an organization we do the right thing. And I share those values. We want to know the truth. Everyone in our organization has been instructed to cooperate fully with the NFL investigation and knows that's priority No. 1 right now. Again, we simply want to know the facts, and when we do, I can assure you we’ll respond accordingly. But we don't yet know all the facts.

"We do know, as an organization, that we can always improve, and as such, we've put together a bit of a committee that includes head coach Joe Philbin, myself, general manager Jeff Ireland (and) executive vice president Dawn Aponte of football operations to sit down and figure out and make sure that we can identify the areas, to make sure that our standards are being enforced, (and) our standards and our resources are available to all of our employees. If there are needs, we will address them. If there's something we can improve on, we will.

"We're committed to learning the facts and discovering the truth, whatever that result may be in coming out of this. And I'm confident that we're going to come out of this as a better organization as a result. Thank you. At this time, we'll take some questions."

Ross and Garfinkel then answered reporters' questions. The transcript is below:

ROSS: Before any questions, I'd like to tell you that I'll be meeting with Jonathan Martin on Wednesday. For those of you who want to know where the meeting is, I'm not going to disclose that. I tell you, my airplane will not have -- you will not be able to follow me on your computer where that airplane is going. But I look forward to that meeting, because I think that could help us move forward.

REPORTER: What would you like to ask Jonathan Martin, and what would you like to tell him?

ROSS: I'd like to hear from him, what had happened, why he felt that way, the whole origin, and what we did, or what we could have done to really prevent something like this from happening.

REPORTER: You're confirming that it happened?

ROSS: I did not confirm. I want to hear the circumstances. The facts is what I said I want to learn.

REPORTER: Did it catch you by surprise, this story? At any time, was there any time or had any indication that Jonathan or anyone else in the Dolphins locker room had an issue of any kind of bullying or with Richie in particular?

ROSS: I never heard that. Coach didn't hear it. Nobody heard that. I think you've heard that from the players. I have not heard that.

REPORTER: You said you had the utmost confidence in Joe Philbin to right this ship. Do other personnel changes have to be made?

ROSS: We're looking at everything. Right now I have total confidence in my staff.

REPORTER: Would you consider stopping any form of hazing in the future?

ROSS: Absolutely. I don't think it has -- I mean, look, there are certain things that are going to happen. People will stand up and sing their fight songs if they're asked to, things like that. It's where you draw the line. I think the world has changed. I think with social media and everything today. But one thing that will not change: There will not be any racial slurs, or harassing, or bullying in that workplace, in that locker room and outside the locker room.

REPORTER: What do you think the central issue is here? You've heard bullying. We've heard locker room culture. (There have been) reports that Jonathan's gone for mental treatment.

ROSS: I think in any locker room and any workplace, I think every voice needs to be heard, and I think it's very important that we have a locker room and work environment where every voice can be heard. And I think, you know -- we had that in our policies. Someone has -- but I think if you don't know, you don't know how to react, but maybe we have to probably go further, because obviously, there was a voice that we weren't hearing that wasn't being heard.

REPORTER: There's a great deal of scrutiny on the locker room culture, and we're trying to get a sense of what that culture was. You've dealt with a variety of business situations. You've got a feel of, "Hey, OK, has this been properly led?" Is it your sense, based on what you know, that there was adequate supervision of that locker room?

ROSS: I mean, I believe there is, but I think that the facts -- I don't know. I can't really make a comment. That's what the investigation's all about, and I think that we will respond accordingly. I would like to believe that, but I think the facts and independent person will tell you if we were doing the right things. And we'll live with it. If we have to make changes, we will make changes.

REPORTER: The public has very little context into the bullying allegations. How much context do you feel like you have right now to say whether or not bullying was, in fact, happening?

ROSS: That's why I want to meet Jonathan Martin. I'm going there with an open mind, and I don't have a decision of what I want to hear. I want to hear the facts. And from the facts, I can then say, 'Hey. Were we right? Were we wrong, or what have you?' You can't just deal in speculation, and I will not deal in speculation.

REPORTER: You mentioned you don't want to rush to judgment. What was your initial reaction when you heard the worst of this news?

ROSS: I was appalled. I think anybody would be appalled. When you first read that text that was reported, to me I didn't realize people would talk, text or speak that way to people. But we have to hear all the facts in the story.

REPORTER: I'm hearing from Jonathan Martin's camp that he doesn't feel comfortable coming back to Miami. Can I get a reaction to that?

ROSS: I mean, there's so many things that are being said, and everything like that. I'm not going to deal with speculation. I'm going to meet with Jonathan Martin face to face, and then hear what he has to say, and then I'll deal with it from there. If I can't -- everything you've heard -- so much has been said about a lot of different things. He said, she said and everything.

REPORTER: Do you have plans to meet with Richie Incognito, why is he still on the team, and what would it take for him to come back?

ROSS: I want to hear all the facts. I can't tell you, you know, when we'll deal with that. That's why we've been trying to reach and talk to Jonathan Martin. And then we'll move accordingly.

REPORTER: Would you meet with Richie at that point? Do you plan to meet with him?

ROSS: Yes, probably. He deserves to be heard, yes.

REPORTER: There are reports that league officials are concerned that maybe, you're sort of an absentee owner. You have a lot going on in New York. Do you feel you have full control of what's going on?

ROSS: I feel I have total control. The fact that today with communication the way it is, and then the amount of time that I've devoted to this, every day talking with Joe.

GARFINKEL: I can respond to that, too. Steve's been on the phone every day with me, with Joe, with Jeff Ireland, all of us every day for the last week and a half or so. The fact that he's in New York at the time, not physically in the building, he's in constant communication with all of us.

ROSS: I just want to make one thing clear. Everybody within the Miami Dolphins organization cares about the organization. They care about their players, and we want to get this resolved. We want to put this behind us, and we want to do the right thing.

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