NFL punishes Dolphins with $1.5 million fine and suspension for Ross, loss of draft picks for tampering, but says team didn't try to lose

MIAMI GARDENS – The Miami Dolphins have been stripped of two draft picks, including a 2023 first-round pick, and owner Steve Ross is suspended until Oct. 17 and fined $1.5 million after the NFL announced findings after independent investigation of policy violations.

Tuesday’s NFL statement announced that while the team did not intentionally lose games, or tank, during the 2019 season, Miami had an “inadmissible communication” with quarterback Tom Brady between 2019 and 2020, while with the Los Angeles Dodgers. New England Patriots.

The six-month investigation, led by former federal prosecutor and SEC Chairman Mary Jo White, investigated allegations made by former head coach Brian Flores as part of a class-action lawsuit filed in the wake of his firing from the Dolphins.

The Dolphins must give up their own 2023 first-round pick. They still have one from the San Francisco 49ers. Miami is also stripped of a third-round pick in the 2024 draft.

During Ross’ suspension, he will not be able to be present at Dolphins facilities and will not be able to represent the club at any NFL team or event. Ross is unable to attend league meetings before the Annual Meeting in 2023 and he is removed from all league committees indefinitely.

Bruce Beal, a Dolphins vice president and limited partner who is waiting to buy the team from Ross, will not be able to attend league meetings for the rest of 2022 and has been fined $500,000.

Flores’ most damning claim against Ross in his lawsuit was that he offered him $100,000 to lose games in 2019, Flores’ first season in charge. The research found “different memories about wording, time and context.”

The investigation, however, found manipulation violations by Brady. He stated that communication between the Dolphins and Brady began in August 2019 and continued through that regular season and postseason.

“Investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news release. “I am not aware of any previous case of a team violating the ban on manipulating both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of many other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I am not aware of any previous case where property has been so directly involved in the violations.”

The NFL also determined that the Dolphins manipulated New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton in January 2022, citing impermissible communications with Payton’s agent, Don Yee, about Payton coaching Miami without the Saints’ consent prior to the game. Payton’s retirement this offseason.

Ross reacted to the league’s findings with a statement Tuesday.

“The independent investigation clears our organization of any issues related to tanking and all other Brian Flores allegations. As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this issue is now resolved,” Ross said in a statement.

“Regarding the manipulation, I totally disagree with the conclusion and the punishment. However, I will accept the result because the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we start an exciting and winning season. I won’t let anything get in the way of that.”

Flores also offered his reaction with a statement.

“I am grateful that the NFL investigator 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 to tank games, especially as I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns regarding this subject at the time that the researcher has in his possession.

“Mr. Ross will avoid any significant consequences. There is nothing more important when it comes to football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is in question, the fans suffer and football suffers.”

Following a sixth training camp practice Tuesday at the team facility, which left fans drained of energy as news spread, a player who was with the team in 2019, wide receiver Preston Williams, spoke with the media.

“I don’t know if what Flo was saying was true or not,” Williams said. “All I try to do is win and help the team.”

No discipline is expected for either Brady or Payton.

The first- and third-round pick plus a $1.5 million fine is believed to be the most severe tampering penalty imposed by the NFL. In 2016, the Kansas City Chiefs were docked a third- and sixth-round pick and fined more than $300,000 for contacting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin three days before his free agency.

The tampering findings and inconclusive sinking allegations are the latest in a string of embarrassing moments for the Dolphins during Ross’s ownership, which began in 2009. The franchise pursued Jim Harbaugh as coach in 2011 while Tony Sparano still held the job. ; had the 2014 bullying scandal with offensive lineman Richie Incognito at center; and, in 2017, assistant coach Chris Foerster was seen on video snorting a white powder.

Flores’ lawsuit was filed with the intent of exposing what he feels are racial inequities in the hiring practices of coaches at the highest positions in the NFL. He claimed his resistance to Ross’s request, in a season when the Dolphins had a chance at the No. 1 pick in the draft if they kept losing, played a role in his firing after the 2021 season.

In 2019, Flores led a team largely devoid of talent to five wins, resulting in Miami finishing with the No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft. The Dolphins used the pick to draft quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Flores had back-to-back winning seasons the next two seasons, making Ross and the Dolphins’ decision to fire him on Jan. 10 come as a surprise.

Flores was then expected to be hired for another NFL head coaching vacancy this offseason, but several teams passed on. He described, in his lawsuit, feeling as if he had gone through a bogus interview with the New York Giants, a notion sparked by an erroneous congratulatory text from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who intended to send the message to his other former assistant coach named Brian, Brian Daboll. Daboll, who was previously an offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, landed the job with the Giants.

Goodell has previously stated that he cannot simply remove an owner, as he said regarding Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, because of ongoing scrutiny of the organization’s work culture and allegations of widespread sexual harassment by female employees. of team executives.

Ross has owned the Dolphins since 2009. If he sells the team, Beal, a New York real estate executive and current Dolphins vice president and partner, has the contractual right to acquire the equipment.

After firing Flores, the Dolphins hired former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as coach. Prior to that move, Miami reportedly sought out Payton, who retired this offseason, to pair him with Brady, who briefly retired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in early 2022 before announcing a return.

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