NFL suspends and fines Dolphins proprietor, strips two draft decide groups

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The NFL suspended and fined Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and stripped the team’s two draft picks on Tuesday for violating the league’s policies on game integrity. Penalties as a result of an investigation arising from accusations of tampering and playing games brought in a race discrimination lawsuit former Dolphins coach Brian Flores applied in February.

The league concluded that the Dolphins did not knowingly lose games during the 2019 season in order to improve their position in the 2020 NFL draft, but it did find that Ross and Dolphins committed tampering violations related to quarterback Tom Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and who represents former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

The NFL suspended Ross through October 17, removed him from all league committees and fined him $1.5 million. The league said the Dolphins will lose the first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft and the third-round pick in 2024.

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“Investigators have discovered tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement. “I don’t know of any previous cases of a team violating the ban on meddling with both head coach and star players, leading to the potential harm to many other clubs, over a period of time. years. Similarly, I am not aware of any previous cases where ownership was directly related to violations.”

Mary Jo White, former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, investigation supervisionbegan after Flores filed a lawsuit on Feb. 1. In it, he accused Ross of offering him $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season in an effort to secure a top pick in the spring of next year. after.

“The independent investigation has cleared our organization of all tank-related issues and all Brian Flores[’s] other allegations,” Ross said in a statement Released Tuesday by Dolphins. “As I have all said, these allegations are false, malicious and defamatory, and the matter has now been reset. Regarding forgery, I completely disagree with the conclusion and the penalty. However, I will accept the result because the most important thing is that our team will not be distracted as we start an exciting and winning season. “

The investigation found that the Dolphins did not knowingly lose games during the 2019 season and that Ross’ $100,000 offer “was not intended or considered a serious offer, nor was it subject to follow-up.” chased by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club. . “

“Every club has to give their best to win every game,” Goodell said. “The integrity of the game, and the public’s trust in professional football, demands no less. Owners or senior executives must understand the weight their words carry and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if it’s not intended or not. expected. “

The Dolphins finished with a 5-11 record in 2019 and used the number 5 pick in the 2020 draft on midfielder Tua Tagovailoa. Full-back Joe Burrow finished first in that draft, going to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Mr Ross’s comments do not affect Coach Flores’s commitment to win and the Dolphins have competed to win every game,” Goodell said. “Coach Flores will be commended for not allowing any comment on the relative importance of the draft position to affect his commitment to win throughout the season.”

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The Dolphins fired Flores in January. He is currently a senior defensive assistant and defender team coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

“While the investigator found that the Dolphins engaged in tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and severity’, Mr. Ross would have avoided any meaningful consequences,” Flores said. “Nothing is 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, fans suffer, and football suffers. “

The NFL’s investigation found that the Dolphins had unauthorized contact with Brady in 2019 and 2020 while he was under contract with the New England Patriots. The team also had unauthorized contacts with Brady and his agent, who the league did not identify, during and after the 2021 season, while he was under contract with the Buccaneers.

According to the investigation, discussions with Brady and his agent “centered on Mr Brady becoming a limited partner of the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although sometimes they also include the possibility of him playing for the Dolphins.”

Flores’ lawsuit says that Ross began to pressure Flores to “recruit an outstanding quarterback in violation of the League’s cheating regulations” after the 2019 season. Flores declined but was invited into the season. winter 2020 to meet Ross on the yacht for lunch. Ross later told Flores, according to Flores’ lawsuit, “that the outstanding quarterback was ‘convenient’ to the marina.” Flores refused to join the meeting and left the yacht, his lawsuit says.

According to the NFL, the Dolphins also had unauthorized contact in January 2022 with agent Don Yee about Payton becoming Miami’s coach, without obtaining the Saints’ permission. Payton step aside from the Saints after last season.

Yee, who also represents Brady, did not respond to a request for comment 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 throughout the 2022 season for his role in communication with Brady . Ross can’t attend any federation meetings until next spring. He cannot be at the Dolphins facility during the suspension.

Flores’ attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, said in a joint statement: “The punishment announced today is clearly inadequate and disappointing. “Unfortunately, it remains clear that the NFL cannot police on its own, which is why we look forward to continuing to advance the legal process, prove all of Brian’s claims… and force the NFL to take action. real change.”

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

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