NFL goes easy on Dolphins owner for tampering, tanking — and other things that shouldn’t shock you

Estimated read time 5 min read


Dolphins owner Stephen Ross gets off easy.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross gets off easy.
Image: Getty Images

Another day, another embarrassment for the NFL.

Monday saw embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson get suspended six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policies, leading to missing roughly one quarter of playing time per woman accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Tuesday came the league’s ruling on the Miami Dolphins attempting to tank during the 2019 season to improve their draft position and tampering by communicating with Tom Brady and Sean Payton. The team was found in violation of both, with franchise owner Stephen Ross being suspended for more than two months, so I guess we won’t be seeing him in his luxury box for a few weeks. His ban ends Oct. 18. Miami also forfeits its first-round draft selection in 2023 and a third-rounder in 2024. Ross, whose net worth is in the neighborhood of $8.2 billion, was also fined $1.5 million, or .000018 of his bank account, the equivalent of the change you might find in your Lazy-Boy. Bruce Beal, Ross’ successor atop the Dolphins organization, was also fined $500,000 for his role in the plot.

The ruling led to dual statements from Ross, as well as former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who was fired this offseason after back-to-back winning seasons at Miami’s helm, the franchise’s first since 2003. The class-action lawsuit Flores filed against the NFL claimed racial discrimination by Ross as well as his former employer’s efforts to undermine the team’s performance.

The statements read from two different realities. Flores makes it clear this ruling isn’t enough to satisfy him and he won’t be silent despite the suspension and ban moving forward. Ross believes the ruling somehow clears his name completely, when the actual ruling more than states otherwise. Flores sounded the alarm on Ross’ slimy tactics that were confirmed. While the full extent of Flores’ claims has yet to be confirmed or denied, a statement considering this issue “now put to rest” is beyond idiotic. And Ross isn’t an idiot. He just wants the public to fall for his bullshit.

“While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and severity,’ Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence,” Flores said via statement Tuesday. “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.”

The most peculiar part of the NFL’s findings is how Flores and Ross remember the offer the Dolphins owner made to Flores of $100,000 for every loss the coach provided, in the attempt to secure a higher draft pick. “There are different recollections of 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.” Yes, that preceding sentence appeared in the ruling. As if flaunting large sums of money to anyone is mainly improv comedy.

We’re to believe that was a joke? This is just the NFL covering its ass. If labeled as fact, it would spiral the league into chaos. It would make Pete Rose’s betting on baseball look almost quaint. The ruling was never going to find Flores’ unabashed details as wholeheartedly accurate. Protecting the future of the sport is more important than outing one grifter, especially when that grifter is one of the 32 owners. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s nothing-burger of a quote explaining that finding confirms it. Let’s be clear, this is the NFL investigating itself. Would you take Exxon’s word after an oil spill?

Goodell also comments that the investigators found “tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” giving a further lack of credence to any words Ross has to offer. Beal, Ross, and others within the Dolphins organization were found to have had impermissible contact with Brady, on multiple occasions, and with Payton while under contact with other teams. Stay tuned to see what Wednesday brings to a league that has no trouble throwing gasoline on wildfires.

As for the future of Ross and Flores, no kind of reconciliation between the pair was out of the question a long time ago. Tuesday gives another victory in disguise to those already in power in the league, a la Dan Snyder. Wrongdoing in plain sight is still wrong. Ross being the figurehead of the confirmed tampering and other awful tactics were essentially just glossed over by the league office. Ross is clearly lacks integrity, and the NFL is not much better.


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