Ex-49er and Stanford Cardinal Jonathan Martin, who was at the center of a notorious NFL bullying scandal, posted on Facebook Wednesday a highly personal and emotional account of the torment he felt during his playing career. Writing in the second person and the present tense, Martin wrote:
Your job leads you to attempt to kill yourself on multiple occasions. Your self-perceived social inadequacy dominates your every waking moment & thought. You're petrified going to work. You either sleep 12, 14, 16, hours a day when you can, or not at all. You drink too much, smoke weed constantly, have trouble focusing on doing your job, playing the sport that you grew up obsessed with.
Martin's essay, which also covers his early alienation as a minority in "elite private schools," ends on a hopeful note:
"You let your demons go," he wrote, "knowing that, perhaps, sharing your story can help some other chubby, goofy, socially-isolated, sensitive kid getting bullied in America who feels like no one in the world cares about them. And let them know they aren't alone."
Martin was an offensive tackle who played nine games for the Niners last season and was waived in March. He was then claimed by the Carolina Panthers but retired earlier this month, due to a season-ending back injury. In a tweet that he later deleted, Martin wrote: "But, in the end, football was just a job, albeit a fun and well-paying one. Being in a wheelchair at 50 isn't worth any amount of money."
In 2013, Martin left the Miami Dolphins after accusing fellow lineman Richie Incognito and other teammates of bullying him. The case made national headlines and became another occasion to question NFL culture. From a report in the New York Times:
For years, young players in the N.F.L. have been subjected to a wide swath of indignities straight from the hallways of high school or the back rooms of fraternity houses. Young players are often expected to carry teammates’ equipment off the field. They are sometimes forced to sing or otherwise entertain teammates on demand, left helplessly taped to goal posts or asked to regularly bring sandwiches or fast food to teammates.
They are often called names — Incognito referred to Martin, privately and publicly, as the Big Weirdo. In the glossy program sold at the Dolphins’ Halloween night home game, after Martin left the team, Incognito called Martin the “easiest teammate to scare.” ESPN and The Associated Press, among other outlets, citing unnamed sources, have reported that Incognito sent threatening and racist voice mail and text messages to Martin.
Many teams have a tradition of requiring rookies to pay the bill at an annual steakhouse dinner, with free-flowing liquor, where tabs run into the tens of thousands of dollars. One report Monday said Martin was pressured to pay $15,000 toward a trip to Las Vegas that he did not attend. In 2010, Dallas receiver Dez Bryant paid a $54,896 tab.
In 2014, an independent NFL investigator issued a report on the situation in Miami that found Incognito and two other linemen "engaged in a pattern of harassment" directed at Martin, another unnamed teammateand an assistant trainer. The report revealed that Martin had "contemplated suicide" on two occasions in 2013.