It's been two seasons since the Dolphins became the NFL's most vilified franchise thanks to a locker-room scandal involving team bullying. But now a former team trainer has filed a lawsuit against the franchise. Kevin O'Neill is now claiming that he was served up as a sacrificial lamb in order to clean up the team's image — an unfair railroading, according to the lawsuit.
O'Neill was a pro trainer for 18 years. By all accounts, he was good at his job, enough to earn the Outstanding Athletic Trainer of the Year award from the NFL Physician's Society. The irony is that as O'Neill was winning the award, his career was going down in flames.
This month, O'Neill sued the team, Coach Joe Philbin, and owner Stephen Ross in a complaint filed in Palm Beach County, according to Courthouse News. The lawsuit claims that O'Neill was unfairly implicated in the scandal involving moron-supreme Richie Incognito's behavior toward teammate Jonathan Martin. If you don't remember the details of the situation, Incognito basically harassed the rookie Martin with racial slurs and other idiotic behavior, including calling Martin a "half-nigger piece of shit" in a voicemail. Martin abruptly left the team, sparking the scandal.
In a follow-up investigation commissioned by the league and conducted by attorney Ted Wells, the Dolphins' locker room was painted as a bigoted frat-house atmosphere soaked with taunts and eighth-grade humor. O'Neill's name came up when the report noted that Incognito and other players would taunt an assistant about his Asian background. They allegedly tossed around terms like "Jap" and "Chinaman."
The report claimed O'Neill knew about the harassment and even laughed along. The Wells Report was the reason O'Neill lost his job.
The suit claims that none of this was true and that O'Neill was canned so the Dolphins could look like they were taking a proactive response to the scandal. His suit also says the report made the trainer into a bad guy because he refused to discuss the players' personal matters with investigators. Indeed, the Wells Report notes that O'Neill cut his own interview short.
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Regardless, O'Neill was served up to a public hungry for someone to blame.
"The Dolphins knew that there were serious deficiencies in the Wells Report and that the picture of workplace bullying presented in the report was flawed. Nevertheless, the Dolphins chose to avoid challenging the contents and findings and elected instead to sacrifice a 'scapegoat' to placate the National Football League and other critics of the Dolphins," the lawsuit says.
O'Neill is suing for defamation.
There is another kind of irony at work here. Incognito, the idiot, is obviously the guy to blame for the situation. His own perverted sense of jock entitlement is the reason he was sprouting racist shit and harassing other players. But for some reason, throughout the scandal, the public has been clamoring for someone else in the Dolphins chain of command to blame — Where were all the authority figures?, they seem to be asking, Where are all the adults here? As if Incognito weren't a grown-ass adult who should be held accountable for his actions. Incognito, however, will likely have a second act in the NFL. O'Neill likely won't.