NFL suspends Miami Dolphins owner and strips team of draft picks in sabotage and tank investigation



CNN

The NFL has stripped the Miami Dolphins of two draft picks and suspended and fined owner Stephen Ross after an investigation into tampering and fueling allegations revealed that his team had unauthorized contact with star quarterback Tom Brady and the agent of former Saints coach Sean Payton.

The investigation, led by former US Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and attorneys from the law firm Debevoise, has found that the dolphins have violated anti-tampering rules three times, the NFL said in a press release on Tuesday. The investigation also found that the team did not intentionally lose games, also known as tanking, but noted that Ross repeatedly suggested that the team should prioritize its concept position over winning games during the 2019 season, the release said.

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

“With regard to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the penalty,” Ross said in a statement to the Miami Dolphins Twitter account. “I will accept the outcome, however, because the most important thing is that there is no distraction for our team as we start an exciting and winning season. I will not let anything stand in the way of that.”

The investigation found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communication” with Brady in 2019-20 while he was a member of the New England Patriots and again during and after the 2021 season when he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the NFL late. loose. Those second discussions centered on Brady becoming “a limited partner to the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football manager,” and also included the opportunity to play for the Dolphins, the investigation found.

The league found that Dolphins vice president Bruce Beal was directing contact with Brady and fined him $500,000. The dolphins had no comment on the question about Beal’s actions.

Furthermore, in January 2022, the Dolphins had “impermissible communication” with Payton’s agent, who was the New Orleans Saints head coach at the time and has since retired.

“The investigators have found violations of unprecedented magnitude and seriousness,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no previous instance of a team that has violated the ban on tampering with both a head coach and a star player, to the detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no previous instance where ownership was so directly involved at the violations.

The investigation also examined whether the dolphins deliberately lost matches in the 2019 season to improve their draft position, also known as refueling. The Dolphins eventually finished the 2019 season with a 5-11 record, earning the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

The NFL investigation found that the team did not intentionally lose games, nor did any member of the club, including Ross, order Dolphins coach Brian Flores to lose games, the release said. However, the investigation revealed that Ross repeatedly expressed his belief that the design position of the team should take precedence over the win-loss record.

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

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

“Written in any way, such a comment was not intended or construed as a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any way by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club,” the press release read.

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

“Each club is expected to do their best in good faith to win every game,” he said in a statement. “The integrity of the game and the public’s trust in professional football demand no less. An owner or senior executive must understand the weight his or her words carry, and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if it is is not intended or expected, even if they are made in jest and are not intended to be serious, comments suggesting that concept position is more important than winning could be misunderstood and present an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game .

He praised Flores, who was fired earlier this year and has sued the Dolphins, the NFL and other teams for alleged 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 win and the Dolphins competed to win every game,” Goodell said. “Coach Flores deserves credit for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of the draft position to influence his commitment to win the entire season.”

In a statement, Flores expressed disappointment at what he says the NFL investigation is downplaying Ross’ comments about fueling.

“I am grateful that the NFL’s investigator has determined that my factual allegations against Stephen Ross are true,” Flores said. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the researcher has minimized Mr Ross’ offers and pressure to play tank games, especially when I wrote and submitted a letter to Dolphins management at the time documenting my grave concern on the subject at the time that the detective has in her possession.”

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

“We are certainly discouraged that the investigator, and apparently the commissioner, apologized for very inappropriate comments that go to the heart of the game’s integrity regarding refueling as a joke, especially when a letter was written at the time by coach Flores expressing the seriousness of the game. showed with which these comments were received by Coach Flores,” they said in a statement.

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

Meanwhile, Ross said in his statement that the investigation cleared the dolphins from refueling.

“The independent investigation has cleared our organization of all issues related to fueling and all other allegations made by Brian Flores,” he said. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this matter has now been put to rest.”

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