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The NFL suspended and fined Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and stripped the team of two draft picks for violating league policies governing the integrity of the game, the league said Tuesday.
Ross was suspended through October 17 and removed from all NFL committees. He was fined $1.5 million, the league said. The Dolphins lose their first-round pick in next year’s draft and a third-round pick in 2024.
The penalties stem from the league’s investigation into tampering and tanking allegations, which was led by Mary Jo White, a former US attorney and chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigation began after former Miami coach Brian Flores accused the Dolphins of offering him $100,000 to lose games during the 2019 season to the draft in his racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and teams -Improve positioning.
Mary Jo White is leading the NFL investigation into the dolphin tanking allegations
The investigation found the Dolphins had “improper communications” with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019 and 2020 while he was under contract with the New England Patriots. The team also had improper communications with Brady and his agent Don Yee during and after the quarterback’s 2021 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and with Yee in January 2022 regarding a coaching client, Sean Payton, the NFL said.
“Investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement. “I am not aware of any instance where a team has broken a ban on manipulating both a head coach and a star player over a period of years, to the potential detriment of several other clubs. Likewise, I am not aware of any previous case where property has been so directly involved in the violations.”
The investigation found that the Dolphins “did not intentionally lose any games during the 2019 season,” the NFL said.
“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said. “The integrity of the game and the public’s trust in professional football require nothing less. An owner or officer must understand the weight of his or her words and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intention or expectation.
“While made as a joke and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misconstrued and pose an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game. Mr. Ross’ comments didn’t affect Coach Flores’ winning commitment, and the Dolphins struggled to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing comment on the relative importance of the draft position to spoil his commitment to the win throughout the season.
The Dolphins released a written statement from Ross on Tuesday afternoon.
“The independent investigation has cleared our organization on all issues related to Tanking and Brian Flores[’s] other allegations,” Ross said in the statement. “As I have said throughout, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory and this issue is now being settled. Regarding manipulation, I disagree with the conclusions and punishment. However, I will accept the result because the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we start an exciting and successful season. I won’t let anything get in the way of that.”