As a penalty, the Dolphins will forfeit their first-round selection in the 2023 draft and third-round selection in the 2024 draft. Ross was suspended until October 17, six games into the 2022 season, and a $1.5 million fine, the statement said.
“In terms of manipulation, I strongly oppose the conclusions and punishment,” Ross said in a statement posted to 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 start an exciting and winning season. I will not allow anything to stand in the way of that.”
The association found that Dolphins Vice Chairman Bruce Bell led the call with Brady and fined him $500,000. The Dolphins had no comment when asked about Bell’s actions.
“Investigators have found fraud violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I do not know of any previous case of a team violating the ban on tampering with both the head coach and star player, at the potential expense of several other clubs, over several years. Likewise, I do not know of any previous case where the monarchy was directly involved in the violations.”
The investigation also examined whether the Dolphins deliberately lost games in the 2019 season to improve draft placement, known as tanks. The Dolphins eventually finished the 2019 season with a record 5-11 and earned a fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
An NFL investigation found that the team did not lose games on purpose and no members of the club, including Ross, directed then-Dolphins coach Brian Flores to lose games, according to the statement. However, the investigation found that Ross repeatedly expressed his belief that the team’s draft position should take precedence over the win-and-loss record.
The investigation found that people had “different memories about the wording, timing and context” of the alleged show, according to the NFL press release.
“Whatever its wording, such a comment was not intended or considered a serious offer, and the matter was not pursued in any way by Mr Ross or anyone else at the club,” the statement read.
Goodell said in a statement that the suspension, even if it was a joke, risks harming the integrity of the game.
“Every team is expected to make sincere efforts to win every match,” he said in a statement. “The integrity of the game, and the public’s trust in professional football, requires nothing less. The owner or CEO must understand the weight of his words, and the risk that comment is taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation. Even if this was done in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments that a draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with it potential unnecessary risks to the integrity of the game.”
“The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect coach Flores’ commitment to victory and the Dolphins’ race to win every game,” Goodell said. “Coach Flores is advised not to allow any comment about the relative importance of the recruiting position to influence his commitment to winning throughout the season.”
Flores and lawyers say he tested positive
In a statement, Flores expressed disappointment in what he said was an NFL investigation that downplayed Ross’ comments about tanks.
“I am grateful that the NFL investigator found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross to be true,” Flores said. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator has played down Mr. Ross’ bids and pressure on tank games especially when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns on the subject while the investigator was in possession of it.”
His attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Eleftrakis, expressed similar disappointment in the investigation’s assessment of Ross’ comments.
“We are certainly disappointed that the Inquisitor, apparently the commissioner, has apologized for the inappropriate comments that go to the heart of the game’s integrity regarding tanks as a joke especially when there was a letter written by Coach Flores at the time to show the charisma with which Coach Flores had received.” .
“The punishment announced today is clearly insufficient and disheartening. Unfortunately, it is still clear that the NFL cannot police, which is why we look forward to continuing to push legal action, substantiating all of Brian’s allegations, as well as the claims of a class of managers Black executives, coaches, and candidates, and to impose real change on the NFL.”
Meanwhile, Ross said in his statement that the investigation had cleared the dolphins from the tanks.
“The independent investigation has cleared our organization of any tank issues and all of Brian Flores’ other allegations,” he said. “As I’ve said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this case is now over.”