Dolphins lose draft picks, owner suspended for tampering

The NFL suspended Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross and withdrew two draft picks after an investigator found the team violated the league’s anti-tampering policy by trying to lure the quarterback Tom Brady and coach Sean Payton in Miami.

Meanwhile, the investigator, former US attorney Mary Jo White, found no evidence that Ross ordered former team coach Brian Flores to deliberately lose games to improve his standing. in the college draft, a claim made by Flores in a federal lawsuit in February, a month after the Dolphins fired him.

White determined that Ross’ offer to pay Flores $100,000 for every game the Dolphins lost – one of the most inflammatory claims in his lawsuit – “was not intended or considered a serious offer, and the subject was not pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club.

As a result of the tampering charge, however, the Dolphins will lose their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 third-round pick. Ross will be suspended until Oct. 17. He will not be permitted at the team facility and may not represent the club at any team or league event. He will be removed from all league committees indefinitely and fined $1.5 million. Ross served on three powerful committees: media, finance and gambling.

In a statement, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, said White had uncovered tampering violations “of unprecedented scope and severity.” He added: ‘I don’t know of any previous cases where the property was so directly implicated in the breaches.

The findings came after a six-month investigation that began after Flores filed his complaint. It included allegations that the league and its teams had set up mock interviews with Flores and other coaches of color to circumvent rules requiring teams to interview a diverse set of applicants for top job offers.

Flores cited text messages from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who appeared to congratulate Flores on getting the Giants coaching job, for which he had yet to interview. Flores responded by asking if Belichick had intended the message for another Brian – Brian Daboll – and Belichick acknowledged that he had. Daboll, who is white, got the job with the Giants, leading Flores to conclude that the Giants had made their decision before Flores had even been interviewed.

The Flores lawsuit, which is still ongoing, also included allegations against Ross, who fired Flores after the 2021 season after three years as Dolphins head coach. Flores claimed that Ross tried to bribe him to lose games and circumvented the league’s ban on talking to other contracted players and coaches without their teams’ permission.

The league found that the Dolphins had inadmissible communications with Brady during the 2019 season and playoffs while he was playing for the Patriots. These communications were “numerous and detailed”. The Dolphins were found to have had inappropriate contact with Brady and his agent again during the 2021 season while he was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including talks of Brady becoming a partner. Dolphins.

It was also found that the Dolphins wrongly tried to lure Payton to coach the team in January when he was still coaching the New Orleans Saints.

“As far as tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings and the punishment,” Ross said. said in a press release. “However, I will accept the result as the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we start an exciting and winning season.”

Many owners have been fined over the years by the NFL, although suspensions are less common. Among them were Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers, who was suspended for the 1999 season after pleading guilty to a crime related to river casino licensing in Louisiana, and Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts, who was suspended for six games. in 2014 after a guilty plea to impaired driving.

Last year, the NFL fined the Washington football team $10 million after an investigation into a club culture of sexual harassment. Owner Daniel Snyder has stepped down from day-to-day business operations at the club until mid-October.

Victor Mather contributed report.

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