As punishment, the Dolphins will forfeit their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick. Ross was suspended until October 17, six games into the 2022 season, and fined $1.5 million, the report said.
“In regards to the falsification, I strongly disagree with the findings and punishment,” Ross said in a statement posted on the Miami Dolphins Twitter account. “However, I will accept the result because the most important thing is that our team is not distracted as we start an exciting and winning season. I won’t let anything get in the way of that.”
The league found that Dolphins vice chairman Bruce Beal led contact with Brady and fined him $500,000. The dolphins had no comment when asked about Beal’s actions.
“Investigators have found violations of unprecedented scale and severity regarding fraud,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I don’t know of a single instance where a team has violated the ban on interference with both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of several other clubs, for several years. Likewise, I don’t know of any previous case where property has been so directly involved in violations.”
The investigation also looked into whether the Dolphins intentionally lost games in the 2019 season to improve their draft position, known as tanking. The Dolphins ultimately finished the 2019 season with a 5–11 record and received the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
According to the report, an NFL investigation found that the team did not intentionally lose games, and no member of the club, including Ross, ordered then Dolphins coach Brian Flores to lose games. However, the investigation showed that Ross repeatedly expressed his belief that the team’s position in the draft should take precedence over the track record of wins and losses.
The investigation found that people had “various memories of the wording, timing and context” of the proposed proposal, according to an NFL press release.
“However worded, such a comment was not intended or taken as a serious suggestion, and this topic was not discussed in any way by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club,” the release reads.
In a statement, Goodell said that the comment, even if made in jest, risks damaging the game’s integrity.
“Every club is expected to strive in good faith to win every game,” he said in a statement. “Integrity and public confidence in professional football demand nothing less. The owner or senior management must understand the weight his or her words carry and the risk that the comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if it is not intended or expected. Even if made in jest and not meant to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that position in the draft is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry an unnecessary potential risk to game integrity.”
“Comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ drive to win and the Dolphins fought to win every game,” said Goodell. “Coach Flores deserves credit for not allowing comment on the relative importance of position in the draft to influence his drive to win throughout the season.”
Flores and lawyers say he was right
In a statement, Flores expressed disappointment that he said the NFL investigation downplayed Ross’ comments about tanking.
“I am grateful to the NFL investigator that my factual allegations against Steven Ross were found to be true,” Flores said. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross’s suggestions and pressure on tank games, especially when I wrote and presented a letter at the time to the Dolphins executives, documenting my serious concerns about this at the time, when the investigator.
His attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Eleftherakis, expressed similar disappointment with the investigation’s assessment of Ross’s comments.
“We are certainly discouraged that the investigator and apparently the commissioner have apologized for the highly inappropriate comments touching the core of the game regarding tanking as a joke, especially when there was a letter written by coach Flores at the time showing the seriousness with which these comments were received by Coach Flores,” the statement said.
“The punishment announced today is obviously inadequate and discouraging. Unfortunately, it remains clear that the NFL cannot control itself, which is why we look forward to continuing the lawsuit, proving all of Bryan’s claims, as well as class claims. black executives, coaches, and candidates and bring about real change in the NFL.”
Meanwhile, Ross said in a statement that the investigation had cleared the Dolphins of refueling.
“An independent investigation has cleared our organization of any issues related to tank refueling and all other allegations against Brian Flores,” he said. “As I said before, these allegations were false, malicious and slanderous and the matter is now closed.”