Dolphins lose 2023 first-round pick, owner Stephen Ross suspended following independent integrity investigation into game violations

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The NFL announced Tuesday that the Miami Dolphins will lose their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 third-round pick, while team owner Stephen Ross has been suspended until Oct. 17, at the following an investigation into whether the organization violated league policies regarding the integrity of the game.

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 centered on whether the Dolphins violated league tampering rules with quarterback Tom Brady and former Saints head coach Sean Payton while under contract with others. clubs; the second if the franchise intentionally lost games during the 2019 season to improve its draft position.

The NFL said Tuesday the investigation had conclusively established that the Dolphins had “unconscionable communications” with Brady in 2019-20 while he was with the Patriots. The Dolphins also had “forbidden communications” with Brady again after the 2021 season while he was a member of the Buccaneers.

“These discussions began no later than early December 2021 and focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner of the Dolphins and possibly a football executive, although at times they also included the possibility that he plays for the Dolphins,” the league said. in Tuesday’s issue. “Messrs. Ross and (Vice-President/Dolphins Limited Partner Bruce) Beal have both been active participants in these discussions.

Additionally, the investigation determined that Miami had “prohibited communications” with Payton’s agent in January 2022 regarding Payton becoming the head coach of the Dolphins.

“Miami did not seek consent from New Orleans to have these discussions, which took place before Coach Payton announced his decision to retire as head coach of the Saints.” said the league. “Following this announcement, Miami requested permission to speak to Coach Payton for the first time, which New Orleans refused to grant.”

“Investigators have uncovered tampering violations of an unprecedented scale and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no previous case of a team breaching the ban on tampering with both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of several other clubs, over a period of years. no previous instance in which the property was so directly implicated in the violations.”

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Brady and Payton will not face league discipline.

Ross was also fined $1.5 million, removed from all NFL committees indefinitely, and cannot attend any league meetings until the league’s annual meeting in 2023. Beal cannot attend no league meetings for the remainder of the 2022 season and was fined $500,000.

“As to the tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings and the punishment,” Ross said in a statement Tuesday. “However, I will accept the result as the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season. I won’t let anything get in the way of that.”

The investigation began after former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, whom the team fired at the end of the 2021 season, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Feb. 1 in which he alleged that Ross had offered to pay him $100,000 for each loss during the trainer’s training. first season in 2019 because he wanted the club to “book up” so he could get the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Dolphins eventually hired former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as their new coach- chief.

The independent investigation determined that the Dolphins did not intentionally lose any games during the 2019 season – “and no one at the club, including Mr. Ross, asked 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 win-loss record of the team”. These comments concerned Flores and led him “to express his concerns in writing to the club’s senior staff, each of whom assured coach Flores that everyone, including Mr Ross, supported him in building of a winning culture in Miami”. Ross then refrained from making such remarks to Flores, according to the league.

As for the $100,000 remark alleged in Flores’ lawsuit, the investigation determined that “however worded, such comment was not intended or considered to be a serious offer, and the subject matter was not pursued in any way by Mr Ross or anyone else at the club.”

“The independent investigation has cleared our organization of all tanking-related issues and all other Brian Flores allegations,” Ross said in a statement. “As I have always said, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and that matter is now resolved.”

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 has found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross to be true. At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator downplayed Mr. Ross’ offers and pressure on the tank games, particularly when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins management to document my serious concerns regarding this matter at the time the investigator has in his possession.Although the investigator has concluded that the Dolphins had engaged in unconscionable tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and gravity’, Mr Ross will avoid meaningful comment There is nothing more important when it comes to football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is in question, fans suffer and football suffers.”

Goodell on Tuesday stressed the importance of public trust in the game.

“Each club must make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said in a statement. “The integrity of the game and public confidence in professional football demand no less. An owner or senior manager must understand the weight of their words and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon. Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning may be misunderstood and pose an unnecessary potential risk to integrity. of the game. Mr. Ross’ comments did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to winning and the Dolphins have competed to win every season.”

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