NFL Suspends Miami Dolphins Owner and Fires Draft Selection Committee Over Tanking and Tanking Investigation

An investigation led by former U.S. Attorney and SEC chair Mary Jo White and attorneys from the Debevoise law firm determined that the Dolphins violated anti-tampering rules three times. The NFL made the announcement in a news release Tuesday. The investigation also found that the team did not intentionally lose games, known as tanking, but that Ross repeatedly suggested that the team prioritize its draft position over winning games in the 2019 season, the release said.

As punishment, the Dolphins will forfeit a first-round pick in the 2023 draft and a third-round pick in the 2024 draft. Ross was suspended until Oct. 17, six games through the 2022 season and fined $1.5 million.

“Regarding the foul, I strongly disagree with the decisions and the penalty,” Rose said in a statement posted on the Miami Dolphins’ Twitter account. “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 successful season. I will not allow any of that.”

The investigation found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communications” with Brady while he was a member of the New England Patriots in 2019-20 and when he was still under contract after the 2021 season. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to an NFL release. Those second discussions focused on Brady “becoming a limited partner in the Dolphins and serving as a football executive,” and included the possibility of playing for the Dolphins, the investigation found.

Dolphins vice president Bruce Beal fined Brady $500,000 after finding him involved. The Dolphins had no comment when asked about Beal’s actions.

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

“Investigators have found violations of an unprecedented scale and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I’m not aware of a team breaching the ban on damaging both a head coach and a star player, harming multiple clubs over the years. Similarly, I’m not aware of any instance before that directly involved in rights violations.”

The investigation also examined whether the Dolphins intentionally lost games during the 2019 season to improve draft position, known as tanking. The Dolphins eventually finished the 2019 season with a 5–11 record and received the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

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An NFL investigation revealed that the team did not intentionally forfeit games, nor did any member of the club, including Rose, instruct then-Dolphins coach Brian Flores to forfeit games. However, the investigation found that Ross repeatedly expressed his belief that a team’s draft position should take precedence over win-loss record.

In February, Flores told CNN that Rose was blunt Flores will pay $100,000 for every game he loses. Ross denied the allegations at the time, calling the claims “baseless, unfair and defamatory.”

According to an NFL news release, the investigation found that “people have different memories about the wording, timing and context” of the claimed offer.

“However, such an idea was not considered or taken as a serious possibility, nor was it in any way pursued by Mr. Rose or anyone else at the club,” the release said.

Goodell said in a statement that the comment was meant as a joke, but risks damaging the integrity of the game.

“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” he said in a statement. “The integrity of the game, and the public’s trust in professional football, is not lacking. An owner or senior executive must understand the weight his words carry, and the risk of taking a comment seriously. It is not intended or expected, whether done in jest or not taken seriously, than success. Comments suggesting that draft standing is important can be misconstrued and pose an unnecessary risk to the integrity of the game.”

He admired Flores was fired earlier this year and the Dolphins sued the NFL and other teams to try to keep winning games by accusing them of racial discrimination. The NFL and the teams have denied the allegations.

“Mr. Ross’s comments did not affect Coach Flores’ determination to win, and the Dolphins competed to win every game,” Goodell said. “Coach Flores should be commended for not allowing any comments about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to success throughout the season.”

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Flores and prosecutors say he was vindicated

In a statement, Flores expressed his disappointment in what he said was an NFL investigation downplaying Ross’ comments about dogging.

“I am grateful that the NFL’s investigator Stephen Rose found my factual allegations to be true,” Flores said. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator has downplayed Mr. Ross’s offers and pressure for tank games, especially when I submitted a letter to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns on the matter. The investigator is in her possession.”

His attorneys, Douglas H. Victor and John Eleftherakis expressed similar disappointment in the investigation’s assessment of Ross’ comments.

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“We certainly regret that the investigator, and apparently the commissioner, condoned highly inappropriate comments that go to the heart of the integrity of the sport of tanking, especially when the letter written by Coach Flores demonstrates gravity. These comments were received by Coach Flores,” they said in a statement.

“The sentence announced today is clearly inadequate and depressing. Unfortunately, it is clear that the NFL cannot police itself, which is why we look forward to pursuing legal action. Force real change on black executives, coaches and candidates, and on the NFL.”

Meanwhile, Ross said in his statement that the investigation removed the dolphins from tanking.

“The independent investigation cleared our company of any issues related to tanking and any other allegations against Brian Flores,” he said. “As I have always said, these allegations are false, malicious and defamatory, and this matter is now closed.”

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