Messages Between Jonathan Martin And His Parents Are Heartbreaking

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Included in Ted Wells's investigation into the Jonathan Martin bullying case is a series of messages Jonathan Martin wrote to his mother and father detailing the the extreme mental distress he felt while a member of the Dolphins. While the outward-facing Martin may have been bro-ishly friendly with Incognito, the exchanges with his parents tell a very different story. They're almost unbearably affecting.


On April 22, 2013, Martin wrote to his mother:

I figured out a major source of my anxiety. I'm a push over, a people pleaser. I avoid confrontation whenever I can, I always want everyone to like me. I let people talk about me, say anything to my face, and I just take it, laugh it off, even when I know they are intentionally trying to disrespect me. I mostly blame the soft schools I went to, which fostered within me a feeling that I'm a huge pussy, as I never got into fights. I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward. Most people in that situation are witty & quick with sarcastic replies, I never have been. I'm awkward around people a lot of the time because I simply don't know how to act around them . . .


His mother responded:

My first thought is that I am glad you wrote this down as a way to start figuring it out. There are people in the world with their own insecurities and they tend to be bullies and confront people. Dealing with them can be a challenge. I think when you feel really good about yourself they won't bother you as much because you won't let them define you. This fits into wanting to please and be liked. Some people out there are not worth it. W e do live in a bubble. Financial and professional success is sheltering. W hich is both good and bad. I think the NFL has a disproportionate share of people who are obscure but masking it with aggression. Your profession is really difficult with measurement and evaluation every week. So we need to build up you liking you. This is where some professional help would be good. They can help you structure your thoughts. And that whole brain chemistry thing is real. You may need some additional seratonin. . . .

Later that day, Martin replied:

I care about my legacy as a professional athlete. But I'm miserable currently. A therapist & medication won't help me gain the respect of my teammates. I really don't know what to do Mom.

. . . I just always avoid confrontation, which is what I've always done, and that leads to [people] perceiving you as soft. I did it at Stanford, and didn't gain anyone's respect until I became a star. Same thing in high school. I had no respect til I became a prospect.


On April 29, 2013, Martin sent the following message to his father, in which he references an instance in which Richie Incognito called him a "nigger":

People call me a Nigger to my face. Happened 2 days ago. And I laughed it off. Because I am too nice of a person. They say terrible things about my sister. I don't do anything. I suppose it's white private school conditioning, turning the other cheek.


Martin's father responded:

They think nigger is okay because black people use it. Tell them you don't use it and it is never okey and if they do it again then they can kiss your black ass. Likewise say that your sister is a Madonna. If they say it again they can kiss your ass. If they do say either again then just stare at them give them and give them your finger. 16 Just so you know, I punked out many times including over nigger. Also over just being black. Mot proud of it in the least. It is just a matter of understanding your own strength. Had 3 white boys outside of a bowling alley calling me nigger. I backed down. Had a Harvard asshole talk about my suntan. I backed down. Just stay who you are. Also, I learned how to pop a bully in his mouth and kicked one in his balls.


On May 5, 2013, Martin felt humiliated on a yacht trip with Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey, and sent the following messages to his mother:

I'm never gonna change. I got punked again today. Like a little bitch.

And I never do anything about it.

I was sobbing in a rented yacht bathroom earlier.

In January 2013, Martin texted his mother:

I have really severe depression. There are many instances where I can't get out of bed. . . . I'm really embarrassed to talk about it with anyone in person, I tried to with you when I was home but I couldn't do it. I've managed to keep it under control for the most part on my own. Anyways, I really do wanna take care of it, because it is debilitating & keeps me from reaching my potential in all facets of life.


According to the report, Martin sent that message to his mother because he was upset by the way his teammates had treated him during the 2012 season.

On May 28, 2013, Martin sent the following message to his mother:

I just don't really see the point in things. It's a major accomplishment for me if I brush my teeth or eat more than 1 meal in a day on off days. It's not that I'm sad, just unmotivated.


On June 9, 2013, he wrote:

I just feel trapped. I feel like I have no agency in my life. Too many expectations. I'm losing my will to compete, which is the scariest thing an athlete can ever say.


The report says that in late April of 2013, Martin's mother flew to Florida to console her son and encourage him to seek psychiatric help. In May, Martin's father had what the report describes as a "father-to-father" conversation with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin about Martin, during which Philbin assured Martin's father that team would do whatever it could to help Martin.