The NFL has stripped the Miami Dolphins of two draft picks, including their 2023 first-round selection, and suspended owner Stephen Ross and fined him $1.5 million as a result of its investigation of allegations levied by former coach Brian Flores.
In addition to the first round pick, the Dolphins also will forfeit their 2024 third-round selection.
Ross, meanwhile is suspended through Oct. 17, during which time he isn’t permitted to be at the Dolphins’ facility or represent the team at any team event. He also can’t attend any league meeting before the annual meeting in 2023.
Dolphins vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal was fined $500,000 and isn’t permitted to attend any league meeting for the rest of the 2022 season.
In his lawsuit against the NFL and several teams alleging racial discrimination in the hiring practices for head coaches, Flores alleged that Ross offered him $100,000 to lose games in 2019, his first season with the club, and tampered with individuals under contract (Tom Brady and Sean Payton)
The NFL said it found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communications” with Brady in 2019-20 when he was under contract with the New England Patriots and again in 2021, when he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The NFL said the conversations with Brady in 2019-20 were conducted by Beal while the the 2021 conversations were focused on making Brady a limited partner in Dolphins and possibly making him an executive but also included the possibility of him playing for the team. Those conversations involved both Ross and Beal.
The league said the Dolphins also had “impermissible communications” with Don Yee, the agent for Payton, then the New Orleans Saints’ coach, about becoming the Miami’s head coach in January 2022. Those discussions happened before Payton announced his retirement, the league said.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”
The NFL, however, said it found no evidence the Dolphins intentionally lost games in 2022 and said Ross’ comment about offering money to lose game “was not intended or taken to be a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club.”
“Every club is expected to 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 executive must understand the weight that his or her words carry, and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation. Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game. The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to win and the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance
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