NFL strips Miami Dolphins of 2023 first-round pick and fines Stephen Ross $1.5 million for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton

MIAMI — The NFL informed the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday that the team would be stripped of its 2023 first-round pick, among other disciplinary actions, for violating league integrity of play policies.

After a six-month investigation, the league found the Dolphins — primarily team owner Stephen Ross and vice president/limited partner Bruce Beal — violated the anti-tampering policy three times from 2019 to 2022 during conversations with quarterback Tom Brady and agent for then-New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

In addition to the first-round pick, the Dolphins will also lose their 2024 third-round pick.

Ross, meanwhile, was fined $1.5 million and suspended until Oct. 17, during which time he is not permitted to be on Dolphins facilities or represent the team. at a team event. He also cannot attend a league meeting before the 2023 annual meeting.

Dolphins vice-president/general partner Bruce Beal has been fined $500,000 and is barred from attending any league meeting for the remainder of the 2022 season.

Beal conducted inadmissible communications with then-New England Patriots quarterback Brady while still under contract; Ross and other Dolphins executives have been briefed on the content of those conversations.

Ross and Beal traded Brady again after the 2021 season, when he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This time, however, the conversation has focused on Brady joining the team as a limited partner and possibly a football executive – although the possibility of him playing for the team has been discussed. , according to the league’s investigation.

Finally, in January 2022, the NFL discovered that the Dolphins had had “inadmissible communications” with agent Don Yee – who represents both Brady and Payton – about Payton as Miami’s next head coach. The league found that the Dolphins “did not seek consent” from the Saints to begin those talks and that they took place before Payton retired later that month.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the league’s findings “unprecedented.”

“Investigators have uncovered tampering violations of an unprecedented scale and severity,” 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.”

In February, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the Dolphins, alleging racism in the league’s hiring practices. In the lawsuit, Flores claims Ross tried to induce him to “tank” or deliberately lose games, shortly after he was hired in 2019 Ross allegedly offered Flores $100,000 for every loss that season. Flores says that as the team was winning games late in the season, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier told him that Ross was “mad” that success on the field was “compromising.” [the team’s] draft post.”

The NFL reviewed these allegations as part of its aforementioned investigation, but found no evidence that the team intentionally lost games during the 2019 season. The investigation, however, revealed that Ross made comments to the team president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, Grier, senior vice president Brandon Shore and Flores that the team’s draft position should take priority over winning games. When Flores expressed his concerns in writing, he was assured that everyone wanted him to build a “winning culture in Miami” and Ross never made those comments to Flores again.

“The independent investigation cleared our organization of any issues related to the tanking and all other Brian Flores allegations. As I have always said, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and that issue is now resolved,” Ross said. in a report. “Regarding the tampering, I strongly disagree with the findings and the punishment. However, I will accept the result as the most important thing is that there are no distractions for our team as we let’s start an exciting and winning season. I will not allow anything that can stand in the way of that.”

The investigation also found that Ross’ offer of $100,000 for each loss, of which there were “differing recollections of wording, timing and context…was not intended or considered an offer. serious, and the matter has not been pursued in any way with the respect of Mr Ross or anyone else at the club.”

“Each club should make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell’s statement read. “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.”

Flores said in a statement that he was disappointed Ross “will avoid any meaningful consequences” with the discipline on Tuesday.

“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 about this matter at the time the investigator has it in their possession,” he said. . “Although the investigator found that the Dolphins engaged in unconscionable tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and severity’, Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequences. There is nothing more important with regard to football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is called into question, fans suffer and football suffers.”

The Dolphins were one of five teams that had multiple first-round selections in the 2023 draft ahead of Tuesday’s discipline. Miami had acquired the San Francisco 49ers’ additional first-round pick in the trade that allowed the Niners to select Trey Lance third overall last year.

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