NFL Dolphins investigation finds tampering violations, fines owner Stephen Ross

Miami Dolphins owner and real estate developer Stephen Ross has been fined $1.5 million and suspended until Oct. 17 for violating NFL tampering policies, the league announced.

The Dolphins will also lose the team’s first-round pick in the 2023 draft and their third-round pick in the 2024 draft.

The penalties mark the conclusion of the NFL’s investigation into reports that the Dolphins tampered with coaches and players from other teams and intentionally lost games to improve their draft prospects.

The team did not intentionally lose any games, according to the investigation, but had conversations between 2019 and 2022 with then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the coach’s agent. Then-Saints Sean Payton, who went against league policies.

“Investigators have uncovered tampering violations of an unprecedented scale and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a 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.”

Brady was under contract, first with New England and then with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when Bruce Beal, the Dolphins vice-president, contacted him about joining the team in various capacities, according to the investigation. . Both Beal and Ross were “active participants” in those discussions, the league said.

The team also contacted Don Yee, Sean Payton’s agent, to have Payton serve as Miami’s head coach, according to the investigation. The team did not ask for consent from the Saints organization before reaching out, according to the investigation, and when they finally asked for that consent, New Orleans refused.

Beal was fined $500,000 and is barred from attending league meetings for the remainder of the 2022 season.

Although the investigation found no evidence that the team intentionally lost games, the NFL confirmed that Ross “expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take priority over the record. of team wins and losses” on several occasions.

Miami coach Brian Flores expressed concern over Ross’ comments, including a claimed offer by Ross to pay Flores $100,000 for losing games, a comment the NFL said was not “not intended or considered a serious offer”.

“An owner or senior manager should understand the weight of their words and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon,” Goodell said in the statement. “Mr. Ross’ comments did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to winning and the Dolphins competed to win every game.”

The Miami Dolphins tweeted a statement from Stephen Ross in response.

“The independent investigation cleared our organization of any tanking-related issues,” Ross said. “Regarding the tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings and the punishment. However, I will accept the result.”

Ross called Flores’ allegations “false, malicious and defamatory,” but looked forward to “no distractions” for the Dolphins at the start of the 2022 season.

Flores sued the NFL in February alleging racist hiring practices by the league. Flores, who is black, was fired after going 24-25 in three seasons with the Dolphins, including a 10-6 winning record in the 2020 season in which he expressed concerns about the comments from Ross.

His lawsuit revealed other allegations against the team and its owner, including allegations of “tanking”.

Flores, in a statement, said he was “grateful that the NFL investigator found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross to be true.”

“At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator downplayed the offers and pressure from Mr. Ross for the tank games,” he said. “Mr Ross will avoid any significant consequences. There is nothing more important when it comes to football itself than the integrity of the game.”

— CNBC’s Jessica Golden and Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

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