Suspended Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross isn’t appealing his NFL-imposed punishment over tampering allegations involving Tom Brady, but that doesn’t mean the billionaire real estate developer is happy.
As Pro Football Talk reported Tuesday, Ross is ‘going apes***’ over the penalty, which includes the Dolphins forfeiting a 2023 first-round pick and a third-rounder in 2024. Furthermore, Ross was fined $1.5 million and banned until October 17. He is prohibited from entering the Dolphins’ facility before then.
Specifically, Ross and the Dolphins are accused of making impermissible contact with Brady, the legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, and now-former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton while the two were under contract. Ross allegedly tried to make Brady a team executive and limited partner.
Ross did avoid any punishment over former head coach Brian Flores’s tanking allegations. Flores sued the team and the NFL for racial discrimination after being fired in January, and has since taken a defensive assistant position under Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh.
As Pro Football Talk reported Tuesday, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (pictured) is ‘going apes***’ over the penalty, which includes the Dolphins forfeiting a 2023 first-round pick and a third-rounder in 2024. Furthermore, Ross was fined $1.5 million and banned until October 17. He is prohibited from entering the Dolphins’ facility before then
Specifically, Ross and the Dolphins are accused of making impermissible contact with Tom Brady (pictured), the legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, and now-former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton while the two were under contract. Ross allegedly tried to make Brady a team executive and limited partner
‘The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,’ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. ‘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 violations.’
The investigation concluded the Dolphins violated the league’s anti-tampering policy on three separate occasions. The Dolphins had impermissible communications with Brady as early as August 2019 through the 2020 postseason, while he was under contract to the New England Patriots.
Dolphins vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal conducted ‘these 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, while he was under contract to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
WHAT IS TAMPERING?
Tampering, in both the sports world and other professions, is the practice of attempting to persuade someone who is under contract to do something without the knowledge or permission of that person’s employer.
As it pertains to the NFL and NBA, tampering usually involves one team contacting a coach or player from another in a preemptive attempt to lure that party away from their current club. If a player is going to be a free agent, a tampering team might reach in the waning days of the athlete’s contract to get a head start on negotiations before rivals can engage in talks.
There are times when teams grant permission to other clubs to speak with their personnel, but the NFL and NBA are both cracking down on impermissible contact, typically done through bachkchanneling.
Those discussions focused on Brady becoming a limited partner in the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although at times they also included the possibility he would play for the Dolphins. The league says Ross and Beal participated in these discussions.
Brady briefly retired in February before the seven-time Super Bowl champion chose to return for another season with the Buccaneers.
The third tampering violation involved Payton. In January, the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Yee about having Payton serve as Miami´s head coach. The Dolphins did not seek consent from New Orleans to have these discussions, which occurred before Payton announced his decision to retire from the Saints. Miami requested permission to speak to Payton for the first time after that announcement but New Orleans declined to grant it.
Ross’ suspension ends the same day Deshaun Watson is eligible to return from his six-game suspension. A disciplinary officer handed out Watson’s punishment on Monday after the Cleveland Browns quarterback was accused by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments. The NFL is mulling whether to appeal that decision.
Ross may not be present at the team’s facility and may not represent the club at any team or NFL event during his suspension. He also may not attend any league meeting before the annual meeting in 2023, and he is removed from all league committees indefinitely.
Beal was fined $500,000 and may not attend any league meeting for the remainder of the year.
Regarding Flores’ allegations the Dolphins wanted him to ‘tank’ games to secure the top draft pick, investigators said the team didn’t intentionally lose and neither Ross nor anyone from the team instructed Flores to lose on purpose.
However, investigators found Ross expressed several times during the season his belief that draft position should take priority over won-loss record. Flores considered the comments a suggestion that he lose games and expressed his concerns in writing to senior club executives. Ross no longer made any such comments to Flores.
Sean Payton was improperly contacted by the Dolphins through his agent Don Yee
Investigators said there are differing recollections about the wording, timing, and context of Flores’ claim of a $100,000-a-game offer from the club to tank, but it ‘was not intended or taken to be a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect’ by Ross or anyone else at the club.
‘I am thankful that the NFL´s investigator found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross are true,’ Flores said in a statement. ‘At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross´s offers and pressure to tank games especially when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns regarding this subject at the time which the investigator has in her possession.
‘While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible tampering of `unprecedented scope and severity,´ Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence. 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, fans suffer, and football suffers.’
Goodell chastised Ross for making the comments.
‘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,’ Goodell said. ‘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.’
Ross issued a statement, claiming the league cleared the team of tanking and calling Flores’ allegations ‘false, malicious and defamatory.’
‘I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment,’ Ross said of the tampering conclusion. ‘However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there be no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season.’
Former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and a team of lawyers from the Debevoise law firm led the NFL’s investigation.
WHAT IS ‘TANKING’ AND WHY DO SOME TEAMS TRY TO LOSE?
By Alex Raskin, Sports News Editor for Daily Mail Online
Known as ‘tanking,’ the practice of turning a mediocre team into a bad one for the purposes of improving draft positioning isn’t unheard of, although it has never been proven and punished by the NFL or any major US league.
It doesn’t involve individual players throwing games, but rather occurs at the front-office level, where executives favor cheaper, less-experienced rosters over squads of high-priced veterans. Typically, tanking teams save money on payroll. More importantly, they improve their chances of landing top, young talent in an upcoming draft, the order of which is determined by record with the worst teams picking first.
Proving tanking could be difficult because it comes with a built-in defense: Any team accused of doing it could theoretically claim to be taking a long-term approach to rebuilding its roster with an eye towards getting younger players more experience.
Brian Flores pictured alongside Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) in October of 2021
That was certainly the case for head coach Brian Flores with the young Dolphins in 2019, when they finished just 5-11 with a roster he inherited from a previous regime in Miami.
Flores was fired after the 2021 season, despite posting winning records in his final two years on the job. In February he filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, claiming the league’s hiring practices were biased against black coaching candidates.
Former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson (right) implied on social media that he was paid to tank by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (left), adding that he has proof. In a series of back-and-forth tweets regarding Flores’ lawsuit, Jackson posted that Haslam ‘was happy while we kept losing’
The lawsuit also included a claim that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tried to bribe him $100,000 for every loss in his first year on the job.
‘Indeed, during the 2019 season, Miami’s owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss, and the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that ”Steve” was ”mad” that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was ”compromising [the team’s] draft position.”’
Flores’s tanking allegation against Ross may have opened the NFL up to similar claims.
Ex-Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson implied on social media that he was paid to lose games by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
In Twitter exchange, Jackson wrote that Haslam ‘was happy while we kept losing.’ And later, Jackson posted, ‘Trust me, it was a good number!’
Both Ross and the Haslam’s Browns have denied the claims by Flores and Jackson.
Jackson didn’t hold back when the topic of tanking was brought up in Flores’s lawsuit
The difference between Flores’s and Jackson’s allegations is the $100,000 bribe that Ross allegedly offered his now-former coach in Miami.
As reported by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who is also a lawyer, the Sports Bribery Act ‘criminalizes such conduct’ when bribery is involved.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 224: ‘Whoever carries into effect, attempts to carry into effect, or conspires with any other person to carry into effect any scheme in commence to influence, in any way, by bribery any sporting contest, with knowledge of the purpose of such scheme is to influence by bribery that contests, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.’
As Florio explained, the offer does not have to be accepted in order to convict. Flores has claimed he refused to lose games at Ross’s request.
According to the law, there is only liability if the accused ‘carries into effect’ a scheme or bribe. So an offer of $100,000 to lose a game could constitute a violation.
The NFL probed the claim as part of a two-fold investigation for Ross that resulted in a $1.5 million, but the league could not find enough evidence to punish the billionaire over the alleged $100,000 bribe offer.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross before the game against the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 3, 2021