NFL suspends and fines Dolphins owner, strips team of two draft picks


The NFL suspended and fined Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and stripped the team of two draft choices Tuesday for violating league policies governing the integrity of the game. The penalties are a result of the findings of an investigation that arose from tampering and game-tanking allegations made in the racial discrimination lawsuit former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed in February.

The league concluded that the Dolphins did not attempt to lose games purposefully during the 2019 season in a bid to improve their positioning in the 2020 NFL draft. But it did find that Ross and the Dolphins committed tampering violations involving quarterback Tom Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the agent for former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

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

Mary Jo White to lead NFL’s probe of Dolphins tanking allegations

“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”

Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, oversaw the investigation, which began after Flores filed his lawsuit Feb. 1. In it, he accused Ross of offering him $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season in an effort to secure the top draft pick the following spring.

“The independent investigation cleared our organization on any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores[’s] other allegations,” Ross said in a statement released Tuesday by the Dolphins. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this issue is now put to rest. With regards to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment. However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there be no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season.”

The investigation found that the Dolphins did not intentionally lose games during the 2019 season and that Ross’s $100,000 offer “was not intended or taken to be a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club.”

“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said. “The integrity of the game, and public confidence in professional football, demand no less. An owner or senior executive must understand the weight that his or her words carry, and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation.”

The Dolphins finished with a 5-11 record in 2019 and used the No. 5…

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