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LOS ANGELES — One day before the Miami Dolphins are scheduled to begin a new chapter in their franchise history with the formal introduction of new coach Mike McDaniel to the media, the lawsuit brought against the team and the entire NFL by former coach Brian Flores cast a shadow that stretched coast to coast.
In this west coast city that’s hosting the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Flores’ allegations of racism as well as the ones contending he was ordered to lose games by Dolphins club owner Stephen Ross, “very disturbing.”
Goodell confirmed the league will investigate the Dolphins and also affirmed the league has the power to remove Ross if allegations are proven.
That should worry Ross because Flores apparently has at least one witness willing to corroborate his account that Ross offered him cash to lose games on purpose, according to sources familiar with the matter.
That witness is former Dolphins assistant to the head coach Lance Bennett, according to the sources.
Bennett, hired by Flores in 2019 as his right-hand man, has told the lawyers representing Flores he is willing to corroborate the coach’s account that Ross offered the coach $100,000 to lose games in 2019.
Unlike assistant coaches and other staffers Flores hired during his three years in Miami, Bennett apparently also exited the club when Flores was fired. His name no longer appears on the team’s updated staff directory.
Within walking distance of SoFI Stadium where Super Bowl LVI will be played Sunday, Goodell conducted his annual state of the league press conference and addressed the Flores lawsuit early in the session.
“First, I found all of the allegations, whether they’re based on racism or discrimination, or the integrity of our game, all of those to me were very disturbing,” Goodell said Wednesday. “They are very serious matters to us on all levels, and we need to make sure we get to the bottom of all of them.
“Integrity of the game is obviously an important element,” Goodell added. “.. We are going to look into that. We are going to make sure if there were violations, they won’t be tolerated. I couldn’t speculate on what they’ll be, because I have to figure out what the facts are. What’s the outcome? When we know what those facts are, and the impact they’ll have on our game, we’ll deal with it very seriously.”
Goodell did not specify what kind of penalties might come from any violations that are uncovered by an independent investigation and he did not outline whether the league has begun any action on the matter.
But Goodell did say “I do believe that clubs do have the authority” to remove Ross if the looming investigation proves what Flores is alleging regarding integrity of the game. That removal process would take a vote of the NFL’s other owners.
In his lawsuit, which alleges racial discriminition, Flores claims Ross ordered him to lose games and relayed his displeasure when the Dolphins rallied to win 5 of their final 9 games at the end of the 2019 season.
Ross has said he will “cooperate fully” with any NFL inquiry.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero