Jan 29, 2015
Dolphins Axe Long-time ATC

By Patrick Bohn

A recently-released report from the NFL detailing the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal has led to the dismissal of Head Athletic Trainer Kevin O’Neill, who was fired along with former offensive line Coach Jim Turner. O’Neill had been with the organization for the last 18 years.
O’Neill was mentioned several times in the report as laughing when the sister of Miami player Johnathon Martin was the subject of remarks in the locker room, according to CBS Sports:

“Martin maintained that Kevin O’Neill, the Dolphins head trainer, also heard such remarks [about Martin’s sister] and even laughed at them from time to time”

Additionally, the report alleges that O’Neill did not intervene when racist remarks were directed towards an assistant athletic trainer:

“Martin and other players claimed O’Neill, the head trainer, not only overheard the racist insults, but also sometimes laughed along and never intervened. We did not cover this specific topic in our interview with O’Neill, which was cut short because O’Neill expressed hostility toward our investigation.”

O’Neill has garnered support from former Miami Dolphin Head Coach Jimmy Johnson, who tweeted he had been:

“involved with football for 60 years,” and that “O’Neill was best I was ever around.”

The accusations against O’Neill, who joined the organization in 1996, are a stain on what has been an otherwise decorated career. He recently won the 2013 Tim Kerin Award for Excellence in Athletic Training, one of just five NFL athletic trainers to ever win the award. Prior to his time with the Dolphins, O’Neill spent seven years as Head Athletic Trainer for the Dallas Cowboys.

After the dismissals, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued the following statement in a team press release.

“The language and behavior as described in the Ted Wells report are against the core values of our organization,” said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. “After receiving the report, I conducted my own internal review of the facts to determine the appropriate steps for our organization. Jim Turner and Kevin O’Neill are good people who care a great deal about their profession and the players whom they serve, but both exhibited poor judgment at times which led me to this conclusion. As owner, I know firsthand of the high-character and dedicated professionals in our building. I believe in our team and know the hard work and sacrifices they make every day on the field and in the community. However, this is an opportunity and a teaching moment not only for the coaches, staff and players in our locker room, but also for participants throughout sports. I am in contact with Jonathan Martin and we plan to meet soon. Next week, I will provide further details of our partnership with the NYU School of Law and the NYU Center for Sports and Society regarding a broader effort to address conduct in sports. My commitment to our fans, coaches, players and staff is that we will be a stronger organization going forward.”

In wake of the incident, current Dolphins’ Head Coach Joe Philbin held a press conference where he admitted that he was responsible for the team’s workplace environment and that the organization was going to improve:

“I’m the one as I mentioned earlier that is in charge of the workplace. I can tell you, I can tell our fans, I can tell you sitting here, I can tell our players, we are going to do things about it. We are going to make it better. We are going to look at every avenue. We are going to uncover every stone, and we are going to have a better workplace. I promise you that. I’m going to make sure that happens.”

Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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