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NFL suspends, fines Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, strips team of two draft picks


The NFL suspended and fined Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and stripped the team of two draft picks on Tuesday for violating league policies governing integrity of play. The penalties are the result findings from an investigation stemming from allegations of game tampering and stockpiling made in connection with the racial discrimination lawsuit that former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed in February.

The league concluded that the Dolphins did not deliberately attempt to lose games during the 2019 season in an effort to improve their positioning in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it found that Ross and the Dolphins committed tampering violations involving quarterback Tom Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton’s agent.

The NFL suspended Ross until October 17, removed him from all league committees and fined him $1.5 million. The Dolphins are losing their first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft and a third-round selection in 2024, the league announced.

Mary Jo White to lead NFL investigation into Dolphins tanking allegations

“Investigators have uncovered tampering violations of an unprecedented scale and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement. “I know of no previous example 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 has been so directly implicated in the violations.”

Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, oversaw the investigation, which began after Flores filed her lawsuit on Feb. 1. He accuses Ross of offering him $100,000. by loss in the 2019 season with the goal of earning the No. 1 draft pick the following spring.

“The independent investigation has cleared our organization of all issues related to tanking and Brian Flores.[’s] other allegations,” Ross said. in a report released Tuesday by the Dolphins. “As I have always said, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and that matter is now resolved. Regarding the tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings 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 begin an exciting and winning season.

The investigation found that the Dolphins did not intentionally lose any games during the 2019 season and that Ross’ $100,000 offer “was not intended or considered a serious offer, and the subject matter was not ‘has been prosecuted in any way by Mr Ross or anyone else at the club.’

“Every club must make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said. “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 this is not the intention or expectation.

The Dolphins finished 5-11 in 2019 and used the No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Quarterback Joe Burrow went first in this draft, to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“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.”

NFL plans to investigate Brian Flores tanking and tampering allegations against Dolphins

The Dolphins fired Flores in January. He is now a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Flores said in a statement released Tuesday by his attorneys that he was “grateful that the NFL investigator found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross to be true” but “disappointed to learn that the investigator downplayed” these charges.

“Although the investigator found that the Dolphins engaged in unconscionable tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and severity,’ Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequences,” Flores said. “There is nothing more important when it comes to football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is called into question, fans suffer and football suffers.

The NFL investigation found the Dolphins had inadmissible communications with Brady in 2019 and 2020 while he was under contract with the New England Patriots. The team also had inadmissible communications with Brady and his agent, whom the league did not identify by name, during and after the 2021 season while he was under contract with the Buccaneers.

According to the investigation, discussions with Brady and his agent “focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner of the Dolphins and possibly a football executive, although at times they also included the possibility that he plays for the Dolphins.”

Flores’ lawsuit said Ross began pressuring Flores to “sign a top quarterback in violation of League tampering rules” after the 2019 season. Flores declined but was invited to the winter 2020 to meet Ross on a yacht for lunch. Ross then told Flores, according to Flores’ lawsuit, “that the prominent quarterback was ‘conveniently’ arriving at the marina.” Flores refused to participate in the meeting and left the yacht, according to his lawsuit.

According to the NFL, the Dolphins also had inadmissible communications in January 2022 with agent Don Yee about Payton becoming Miami’s coach, without receiving permission from the Saints. Payton retired from the Saints after last season.

Yee, who also represents Brady, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The NFL also fined Bruce Beal, a limited partner and Vice President of the Dolphins, $500,000 and banned him from attending league meetings during the 2022 season for his role in communications with Brady. Ross won’t be able to attend any league meetings until next spring. He cannot be at the Dolphins facility during his suspension.

“The penalty announced today is grossly inadequate and discouraging,” Flores attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said in a joint statement. “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 of Brian’s claims…and forcing real change on the NFL.”

White is also leading the NFL’s ongoing investigation into the latest allegations against Washington’s COs and their owner, Daniel Snyder.

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