Videos by OutKick
The NFL came down hard on the Miami Dolphins Tuesday afternoon for tampering in efforts to hire Tom Brady and Sean Payton.
But club owner Stephen Ross, who is suspended for six games and fined $1.5 million, chose to focus first on the idea that the investigation found his team was found not to have tanked, or lost on purpose in 2019.
“The independent investigation cleared our organization on any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores other allegations,” Ross said in a statement. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this issue is now put to rest.”
The investigation conclusively established the following as the idea the Dolphins tanked in 2019:
- 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.
- On a number of occasions during the 2019 season, 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 Flores. These comments, which he took to be suggestions that he lose games, troubled Flores and led him to express his concerns in writing to senior club executives, each of whom assured Flores that everyone, including Ross, supported him in building a winning culture in Miami. After this, Ross no longer made any such comments to Flores.
- One such comment is a claimed offer by Ross to pay 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.
Commissioner Roger Goodell was not amused by Ross suggesting losing games is great, even if he was saying them in jest.
“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said in a statement. “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.”
Flores, who included the Dolphins in a racial discrimination suit that alleged the Dolphins not only tampered but were dealt with Ross offering cash for losing in 2019, has a predictably different view of the investigation’s findings than Ross.
“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.”
Ross did address the tampering that is costing the Dolphins a first round pick in 2023 and a third-round pick in 2024 and resulted in him getting suspended until October 17 and paying a $1.5 million fine:
“With regards to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment,” Ross said. “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. I will not allow anything to get in the way of that.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero