Dolphins lose 2023 first-round pick, owner Stephen Ross suspended after independent investigation into game integrity violations
The NFL announced Tuesday that the Miami Dolphins will forfeit their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 third-round pick, and team owner Stephen Ross has been suspended until Oct. 17 following an investigation into whether the organization violated league policies. game integrity.
The investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney and SEC chairwoman Mary Jo White, lasted six months and focused on two areas, according to the NFL. The first focused on whether the Dolphins violated the league’s antitrust rules with quarterback Tom Brady and former Saints coach Sean Payton while under contract with other clubs. the second about whether the franchise intentionally missed games during the 2019 season to improve its draft position.
The NFL said Tuesday that the investigation conclusively found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communications” with Brady in 2019-2020 when he was with the Patriots. The Dolphins again had “impermissible communications” with Brady after the 2021 season while he was with the Buccaneers.
“These discussions began no later than early December 2021 and focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner in the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although at times they included the possibility of him playing for the Dolphins,” the league said. . in Tuesday’s circulation. “Both Mr. Ross and (Dolphins vice president/limited partner Bruce) Beal have been active participants in these discussions.”
Additionally, the investigation found that Miami had “impermissible communications” with Payton’s agent in January 2022 about Payton becoming the Dolphins’ coach.
“Miami did not seek consent from New Orleans for these discussions to take place, which took place before Coach Payton announced his decision to retire as Saints head coach,” the league said. “Following this announcement, Miami requested permission to speak with Coach Payton for the first time, which New Orleans refused to grant.”
“Investigators found violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I am not aware of any prior instance of a team violating the prohibition against interference with both a head coach and a star, to the detriment of several other clubs, over a period of several years. Likewise, I am not aware of any prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in violations”.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Brady and Payton will not face league discipline.
Ross has also been fined $1.5 million, removed from all NFL committees indefinitely and cannot attend any league meetings before the league’s Annual Meeting in 2023. Bill cannot attend any meeting for the remainder of the 2022 season and was fined $500,000.
“With regard to tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings and the punishment,” Ross said in a statement Tuesday. “However, I will accept the result because the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we embark on an exciting and winning season. I will not allow anything to stand in the way of that.”
The investigation began when former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, whom the team fired at the end of the 2021 season, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Feb. 1 alleging Ross offered to pay him $100,000 for each loss against the duration of the coach. first season in 2019 because he wanted the club to “tank” to get the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Dolphins eventually hired former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as their new head coach.
The independent investigation found that the Dolphins did not intentionally forfeit games during the 2019 season — “nor did anyone at the club, including Mr. Ross, instruct Coach Flores to do so.” However, the NFL announced that “on several occasions during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take precedence over the team’s win-loss record.” . Those comments concerned Flores and led him “to express his concerns in writing to senior club officials, each of whom assured Coach Flores that everyone, including Mr. Ross, supported him in building a winning culture in Miami.” Ross then refrained from making such remarks to Flores, according to the league.
As for the $100,000 remark in Flores’ message, the investigation found that “however worded, such a comment was not intended or intended as a serious offer, nor was the matter pursued in any way by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the Club.”
“The independent investigation cleared our agency of any issues related to the tanking and all of Brian Flores’ other allegations,” Ross said in a statement. “As I have said throughout, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this matter has now been put to rest.”
Flores, who is currently the Steelers’ senior defensive assistant, released the following statement in response to the investigation’s findings:
“I am 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 minimized Mr. Ross’ offers and pressure to tank games, especially when I wrote and submitted a letter to The Time to Dolphins executives to document my serious concerns about this matter at the time the investigator is in her possession. While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible violations of “unprecedented scope and severity,” the Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence. There is nothing more important when it comes to the game of football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is called into question, the fans suffer and football suffers.”
Goodell on Tuesday emphasized the importance of public trust in the game.
“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said in a statement. “The integrity of the game and the public’s trust in professional football demand nothing less. An owner or senior executive must understand the weight their words carry and the risk of a comment being taken seriously and acted upon, even if That’s not the intent or expectation. Even if made in jest and not meant to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misconstrued and carry with it an unnecessary potential risk for the integrity of the game. Mr. Ross’s comments did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to winning and the Dolphins fought to win every game. season.”