NFL Docks Dolphins 2023 1st- & 2024 3rd-Rd Picks, Suspends Owner Stephen Ross After Investigation


Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued the following statement regarding the discipline imposed by the NFL on Tuesday:

The NFL announced Tuesday that they’re suspending Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and the team will forfeit a first-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft and a third-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft after the investigation into tampering allegations. 

Dolphins Helmet

Ross is suspended through October 17 and has been fined $1.5 million.

Tampering violations:

The investigation conclusively established violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy on
three separate occasions:

  • The Dolphins had impermissible communications with quarterback Tom
    Brady in 2019-20, while he was under contract to the New England Patriots.
    Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued
    throughout the 2019 season and post-season. These numerous and detailed
    discussions were conducted by Mr. Beal, who in turn kept Mr. Ross and other
    Dolphins executives informed of his discussions with Mr. Brady.
  • The Dolphins again had impermissible communications with both Mr. Brady
    and his agent during and after the 2021 season, while he was under contract
    to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those discussions began no later than early
    December 2021 and focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner in the
    Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although at times they
    also included the possibility of his playing for the Dolphins. Both Messrs. Ross
    and Beal were active participants in these discussions.
  • In January 2022, the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Don
    Yee, the agent for New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton, about
    having Mr. Payton serve as Miami’s head coach. Miami did not seek consent
    from New Orleans to have these discussions, which occurred before Coach
    Payton announced his decision to retire as head coach of the Saints.
    Following that announcement, Miami requested permission to speak to
    Coach Payton for the first time, which New Orleans declined to grant.

“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and
severity,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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

Tanking to improve draft position:

The investigation also addressed whether the Dolphins intentionally lost games
during the 2019 season to improve the club’s draft position in the 2020 draft and
whether Mr. Ross offered financial incentives or otherwise encouraged the head
coach to do so.

The investigation conclusively established the following:

  1. The Dolphins did not intentionally lose games during the 2019 season.
    Nor did anyone at the club, including Mr. Ross, instruct Coach Flores to
    do so. No witness contended otherwise. The Dolphins competed hard to
    win every game, including at the end of the season when they beat
    Cincinnati and New England, despite worsening Miami’s position in the
    2020 draft.
  2. On a number of occasions during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross expressed
    his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should
    take priority over the team’s win-loss record. These comments were made
    most frequently to Team President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, but were also
    made to General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon
    Shore and Coach Flores. These comments, which he took to be
    suggestions that he lose games, troubled Coach Flores and led him to
    express his concerns in writing to senior club executives, each of whom
    assured Coach Flores that everyone, including Mr. Ross, supported him in
    building a winning culture in Miami. After this, Mr. Ross no longer made
    any such comments to Coach Flores.
  3. One such comment is a claimed offer by Mr. Ross to pay Coach Flores
    $100,000 to lose games, as to which there are differing recollections
    about the wording, timing, and context. However phrased, such a
    comment 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,”
Commissioner Goodell stated. “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.
Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting
that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry
with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game. The
comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to win and
the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for
not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect
his commitment to win throughout the season.

Discipline imposed from the league’s findings:

  1. The Dolphins will forfeit the club’s first-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft and
    a third-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.
  2. Mr. Ross is suspended through October 17, 2022. During this period, he may not
    be present at the Dolphins’ facility and may not represent the club at any team or
    NFL event. He may not attend any League meeting prior to the Annual Meeting
    in 2023, is removed from all League committees indefinitely, and fined $1.5
  3. Mr. Bruce Beal, Dolphins’ Vice Chairman/Limited Partner, may not attend any
    League meeting for the remainder of the 2022 season and is fined $500,000.
    This discipline is informed by the Competition Committee’s clear guidance that more
    stringent discipline, including suspensions, should be imposed for tampering violations
    to deter future violations and to safeguard the integrity of the game.


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