The NFL on Tuesday stripped the Miami Dolphins of their first-round NFL Draft pick for next year and punished owner Stephen Ross for tampering with star quarterback Tom Brady and rival coach Sean Payton.
The penalties were handed down after a six-month probe by independent investigator Mary Jo White on allegations of tampering and tanking games.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Ross and Dolphins vice chairman Bruce Beal were found to have violated NFL anti-tampering rules by “impermissible communications” with seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady while he was under contract to the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and with Payton while he coached the New Orleans Saints.
The Dolphins must forfeit their first-round pick next year and their 2024 third-round choice.
Ross was fined US$1.5 million and suspended through Oct. 17. He cannot go to the Dolphins’ facility or represent the club and team at NFL gatherings during the span. He was removed from all NFL committees.
Beal was fined US$500,000 and banned from league meetings for the 2022 season.
“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,” Goodell said. “Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”
Tanking allegations raised by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores against Ross, including financial incentives and other encouragement to deliberately lose games, were not punished. The probe supported Flores and concerns about comments made by Ross, but found there were no serious offers made to reward lost games.
Beal was found to have made improper contact with Brady from August 2019 through the 2019 playoffs while he was with the Patriots, what were described as “numerous and detailed discussions” with reports to Ross.
There was also contact with Brady after last year’s season when Brady was still under contract to Tampa Bay before his brief retirement and return to the Bucs.
Ross and Beal contacted Brady about becoming a limited partner and possibly an executive and quarterback with the Dolphins.
Payton’s agent was contacted in January last year about a head coaching job with the Dolphins before announcing his retirement. The Saints were not asked to allow such contact.
“With regards to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment,” Ross said in a statement. “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.”
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