NFL suspends Miami Dolphins owner, removes draft pick team in tampering, tanking investigation

The investigation, led by former U.S. attorney and SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White and attorneys from law firm Debevoise, determined that the Dolphins violated anti-tampering rules on three occasions, the The NFL announced in a press release on Tuesday. The investigation also found that the team did not intentionally lose games, known as tanking, but noted that Ross had repeatedly suggested that the team should prioritize their draft position over compared to winning matches during the 2019 season, according to the release.

As punishment, the Dolphins will lose their first-round pick in the 2023 draft and a third-round pick in the 2024 draft. Ross is suspended until Oct. 17, six games into the 2022 season, and fined $1.5 million, according to the release.

“As to the tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings and the punishment,” Ross said in a statement posted to the Miami Dolphins Twitter account. “However, I will accept the result as the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season. I won’t let anything get in the way of that.”

The investigation found the Dolphins had ‘forbidden communications’ with Brady in 2019-20 while he was a member of the New England Patriots and again during and after the 2021 season while under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the NFL statement. Those second talks focused on Brady “becoming a limited partner of the Dolphins and possibly as a football executive,” and also included the possibility of playing for the Dolphins, according to the inquest.

The league found Dolphins vice president Bruce Beal spearheading the contact with Brady and fined him $500,000. The Dolphins had no comment when asked about Beal’s actions.

Additionally, in January 2022, the Dolphins had “forbidden communications” with the agent of Payton, who at the time was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints and has since retired.

“Investigators have uncovered tampering violations of an unprecedented scale and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no previous case of a team breaching the ban on tampering with both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of several other clubs, over a period of years. no previous instance in which the property was so directly implicated in the violations.”

Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores describes being offered money for losing games

The investigation also looked at whether the Dolphins intentionally lost games during the 2019 season to improve their draft position, known as tanking. The Dolphins ultimately finished the 2019 season with a 5-11 record and earned the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The NFL investigation found that the team did not intentionally lose any games and that no member of the club, including Ross, ordered then-Dolphins coach Brian Flores to to lose games, according to the press release. However, the investigation revealed that Ross had repeatedly expressed his belief that the team’s draft position should take precedence over the win-loss record.

In February, Flores told CNN that Ross explicitly told her he would give him $100,000 for every game Flores lost. Ross denied the charges at the time, calling the allegations “baseless, unfair and disparaging”.

The survey found that people had “different memories about the wording, timing and context” of the claimed offer, according to the NFL’s press release.

“However worded, such comment was not intended or considered to be a serious offer, and the matter was not pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone at the club,” the statement read.

Goodell said in a statement that the comment, even if made as a joke, risked damaging the integrity of the game.

“Each club must make a good faith effort to win every game,” he said in a statement. “The integrity of the game and public confidence in professional football demand no less. An owner or senior manager must understand the weight of their words and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon. , even if it is not the intention or expectation. Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning may be misunderstood and pose an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game.”

He praised Flores, who was fired earlier this year and sued the Dolphins, the NFL and other teams alleging racial discrimination, for continuing to try to win games. The NFL and teams have denied the allegations.

“Mr. Ross’ comments did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to winning and the Dolphins competed to win every game,” Goodell said. “Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comments on the relative importance of the draft position to affect his commitment to winning throughout the season.”

Flores and lawyers say he’s been proven right

In a statement, Flores expressed disappointment with what he says was the NFL investigation downplaying Ross’ tanking comments.

“I am grateful that the NFL investigator has found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross to be true,” Flores said. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator downplayed Mr. Ross’ offers and pressure on the tank games, particularly when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to the leaders of the Dolphins documenting my serious concerns regarding this matter at the time the investigator has in his possession.”

His attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, expressed similar disappointment with the inquiry’s assessment of Ross’ comments.

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores claims he was offered money to shut up after being fired

“We are certainly discouraged that the investigator, and apparently the commissioner, excused highly inappropriate comments that go to the heart of the game’s integrity regarding tanking as a joke, particularly when there was a letter written by Coach Flores at the time demonstrating the seriousness with which these comments were received by Coach Flores,” they said in a statement.

“The punishment announced today is obviously inadequate and disheartening. Unfortunately, it remains clear that the NFL cannot control itself, which is why we look forward to continuing to move the legal process forward, proving all claims of Brian, as well as those of a class of black executives, coaches and candidates, and force real change in the NFL.”

Meanwhile, Ross in his statement said the investigation rid the Dolphins of tanking.

“The independent investigation cleared our organization of any tanking issues and all other Brian Flores allegations,” he said. “As I have always said, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and that matter is now resolved.”

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