Miami Dolphins punished for illegal Tom Brady and Sean Payton talks but cleared of throwing games

NFL investigation finds the Miami Dolphins breached the league’s anti-tampering policy on three occasions – twice with Tom Brady and once with Sean Payton; Dolphins have been cleared of intentionally throwing games in 2019

Last Updated: 02/08/22 7:08pm

Tom Brady was twice approached by the Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have been punished for illegally speaking to Tom Brady and Sean Payton but have been cleared of throwing games.

A six-month NFL investigation – led by former US attorney Mary Jo White – has found the Dolphins illegally approached star quarterback Brady, once when he was under contract with the New England Patriots and once while he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

They also approached the agent of then New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton without permission from the team.

The Dolphins were, however, cleared of intentionally throwing games during the 2019 season, with the investigation not finding any evidence to support the claim of former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores that he was offered money to intentionally lose games to enhance the team’s draft position in 2020.

The NFL has suspended Dolphins owner Stephen Ross until October 17 and fined him $1.5m. The Dolphins will also forfeit a first-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft and third-round selection in the 2024 draft.

Dolphins vice-chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal has also been fined $500,000 and may not attend any league meeting for the remainder of the year.

“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

“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.

“Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”

Former coach Flores also released a statement, thanking the NFL investigators but also expressing his disappointment that Ross was not found guilty of pressurising him to ‘tank’ games.

Miami Dolphins former head coach Brian Flores accused Stephen Ross of offering him money to 'tank' games in 2020

Miami Dolphins former head coach Brian Flores accused Stephen Ross of offering him money to ‘tank’ games in 2020

“I am thankful that the NFLs 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 minimised Mr Ross’ 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.”

Upon the conclusion of the investigation, Ross released a statement on the Miami Dolphins Twitter account, saying: “The independent investigation cleared our organisation of any issues related to tanking and all of Flores’ other allegations.

“As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious, and defamatory and this issue is now put to rest.

“With regards to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment.

“However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there will 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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