NFL suspends Dolphins owner for Brady Payton interference


The NFL has suspended Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and fined him $1.5 million for interfering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton following a six-month investigation into Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against the league.

An investigation by the league found that the Dolphins did not intentionally lose games in the 2019 season, but that the team had improper communications with Brady and his agent and Peyton Don Yee. The league announced the results of the investigation on Tuesday.

The Dolphins will forfeit a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Ross suspended until October 17.

“Investigators found violations of an unprecedented scale and severity of fraud,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I am not aware of any previous case of a team breaching a non-interference ban on both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of many other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no previous case where property has been so directly involved in violations.’

The investigation concluded that the Dolphins violated the league’s anti-tampering policy three times. The Dolphins had impermissible communications with Brady as far back as August 2019 following the 2020 season, when he was under contract with the New England Patriots.

Dolphins vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal held “those numerous and detailed discussions” and kept Ross and other team executives informed of his conversations with Brady.

The Dolphins again had impermissible communications with both Brady and his agent Yee no later than early December 2021 and after the season he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Those discussions focused on Brady becoming a limited partner with the Dolphins and possibly becoming a football executive, though at times they also included the possibility of playing for the Dolphins. The league says Ross and Bill were involved in those discussions.

Brady briefly retired in February before the seven-time Super Bowl champion decided to return for another season with the Buccaneers.

The third tampering violation involved Peyton. In January, the Dolphins had inappropriate communications with Yee about Payton becoming Miami’s head coach. The Dolphins did not seek agreement from New Orleans for those discussions, which took place before Payton announced his decision to leave the Saints. Miami requested permission to speak with Payton for the first time since the announcement, but New Orleans refused to grant it.

Ross’ suspension ends on the same day Deshaun Watson is eligible to return from a six-game suspension. A disciplinary officer issued the punishment to Watson on Monday after two dozen women in Texas accused the Cleveland Browns quarterback of sexual misconduct during massages. The NFL is considering whether to appeal the decision.

Ross may not attend a team facility and may not represent the club on any team or NFL event during his suspension. He is also barred from attending any league meeting until the 2023 annual meeting and is removed from all league committees indefinitely.

Beal was fined $500,000 and cannot attend league meetings for the rest of the year.

Regarding Flores’ claims that the Dolphins wanted him to “dance” games to get a top draft pick, investigators said the team did not lose on purpose, and neither Ross nor anyone on the team gave Flores deliberate instructions to lose.

However, investigators found that Ross expressed his belief several times during the season that draft position should take precedence over win-loss record. Flores took the comments as a suggestion that he would lose the game and expressed his concerns in writing to the club’s senior management. Ross did not make such comments to Flores again.

Investigators said there were differing recollections of the wording, timing and context of Flores’ claim that the club offered to tank $100,000 per game, but that it “was not intended or considered a serious offer, and was not the subject of any prosecution” by Ross. or anyone else in the club.

“I am grateful that the NFL investigator found my factual allegations against Steven Ross to be true,” Flores said in a statement. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross’s suggestions and pressure to tank games, especially since I wrote and sent a letter to Dolphins executives at the time documenting my serious concerns about this topic at that time. the time when it is with the investigator.

“Although the investigator found that the Dolphins engaged in unauthorized interference of an ‘unprecedented scale and severity’, Mr Ross will avoid any significant consequences. There is nothing 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, the fans suffer and football suffers.”

Goodell reprimanded Ross for the comments.

“An owner or senior executive should understand the weight their words carry and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation,” Goodell said. “Even if made in jest and not meant to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misconstrued and carry an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game. Mr. Ross’s comments did not affect coach Flores’ commitment to winning, as the Dolphins battled to win every game. Coach Flores should be commended for not letting comments about the relative importance of draft position affect his drive to win all season long.”

Ross issued a statement claiming the league cleared the team of tanks and calling Flores’ allegations “false, malicious and defamatory.”

“I strongly disagree with the findings and the sentence,” Ross said of the tampering finding. “However, I will accept the result because the most important thing is that our team does not get distracted as we embark on an exciting and winning season.”

Former US Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and a team of lawyers from the Debevoise law firm led the NFL investigation.


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NFL suspends Dolphins owner for Brady Payton interference

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