The National Football League issued heavy punishments to the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday over what it said were multiple violations “relating to the integrity of the game.”
In a news release, the NFL announced Miami will be forced to give up a first-round draft pick in 2023 and a third-round pick in 2024. In addition, owner Stephen Ross was suspended through Oct. 17 and fined $1.5 million.
The suspension means Ross cannot be at the Dolphins’ facility nor represent the organization at any NFL events. Dolphins’ Vice Chairman Bruce Beal was also fined $500,000, and he will be banned from any league meetings for the entire upcoming season.
These punishments came after a six-month investigation into the Dolphins organization by former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White, the NFL said in the release.
The league said White’s investigation focused on two subjects spanning from 2019-2022 — alleged violations of the NFL’s policies against tampering with a coach or player who is signed to another team and accusation of intentional “tanking” during the 2019 season.
On the tampering question, the investigation “conclusively established violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy on three separate occasions.”
The first instance of violations occurred during the 2019-20 season, the league said. The Dolphins had multiple communications with star quarterback Tom Brady, who was under contract with the New England Patriots.
“Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued throughout the 2019 season and post-season,” the news release said.
The second instance also related to communications with Brady, and they occurred during the 2021-22 season.
“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,” the NFL said.
“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.”
Brady initially announced his retirement following the 2021-22 season, but he has since recanted it and declared his intention to play for the Buccaneers again during the upcoming season.
In the third instance of violations, the investigation found Miami “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,” the release said. “Following that announcement, Miami requested permission to speak to Coach Payton for the first time, which New Orleans declined to grant.”
While the investigation stopped short of concluding the Dolphins were definitely “tanking” at the end of the 2019-20 season, it did conclude Ross “expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take priority over the team’s win-loss record.”
The league said Ross mostly made the comments to Team President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, but he also made them to General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon Shore and Head Coach Brian 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,” the NFL said. “After this, Mr. Ross no longer made any such comments to Coach Flores.”
Flores also alleged Ross offered him $100,000 to intentionally lose games. While investigators found “differing recollection” about the wording and timing of these comments, it concluded any offer of payment for losses “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.”
Even if the comments were made in an insincere manner, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said they were concerning.
“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said according to the release. “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.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.