Dolphins owner Stephen Ross 'could lose the club' over NFL tanking probe over Brian Flores's claims

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ‘could lose the club’ over NFL tanking probe over Brian Flores’s claims

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross faces an NFL probe over tanking allegations that could ultimately cost him his team.  

The NFL is preparing to launch a ‘meaningful’ investigating into claims that Ross offered head coach Brian Flores money to lose games in 2019 to improve the team’s draft position, league spokesman Brian McCarthy told DailyMail.com.

The investigation comes two weeks after Flores sued the NFL, Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants for racial discrimination. That lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Manhattan, contained Flores’s claim that Ross offered him $100,000 for every game the Dolphins lost in his first year as head coach in Miami. Flores has denied accepting any bribe from the billionaire real estate mogul.

Ross could be forced to sell the team if Flores’s allegation is confirmed by the league probe. NFL Network reports that a three-fourths owner vote is required, and commissioner Roger Goodell indicated last week that the possibility exists.

‘I do believe that clubs do have the authority to remove an owner from the league,’ Goodell said at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference last Wednesday, although he was not asked specifically about Ross. 

McCarthy declined to comment on any potential outcomes of the investigation, which he says will ‘get underway soon.’

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) faces an NFL probe over tanking allegations that could ultimately cost him his team. The NFL is preparing to launch a 'meaningful' investigating into claims that Ross offered head coach Brian Flores (right) money to lose games in 2019 to improve the team's draft position, league spokesman Brian McCarthy told DailyMail.com

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) faces an NFL probe over tanking allegations that could ultimately cost him his team. The NFL is preparing to launch a ‘meaningful’ investigating into claims that Ross offered head coach Brian Flores (right) money to lose games in 2019 to improve the team’s draft position, league spokesman Brian McCarthy told DailyMail.com

Flores's lawsuit (pictured), filed in a federal court in Manhattan, contained his claim that Ross offered him $100,000 for every game the Dolphins lost in his first year as head coach in Miami. Flores has denied accepting any bribe from the billionaire real estate mogul

Flores’s lawsuit (pictured), filed in a federal court in Manhattan, contained his claim that Ross offered him $100,000 for every game the Dolphins lost in his first year as head coach in Miami. Flores has denied accepting any bribe from the billionaire real estate mogul

Ross could be forced to sell the team if Flores's allegation is confirmed by the league probe. NFL Network reports that a three-fourths owner vote is required, and commissioner Roger Goodell indicated last week that the possibility exists. 'I do believe that clubs do have the authority to remove an owner from the league,' Goodell (pictured) said at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference last Wednesday, although he was not asked specifically about Ross

Ross could be forced to sell the team if Flores’s allegation is confirmed by the league probe. NFL Network reports that a three-fourths owner vote is required, and commissioner Roger Goodell indicated last week that the possibility exists. ‘I do believe that clubs do have the authority to remove an owner from the league,’ Goodell (pictured) said at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference last Wednesday, although he was not asked specifically about Ross

Known as ‘tanking,’ the practice of turning a mediocre team into a bad one for the purposes of improving draft positioning isn’t unheard of, although it’s never been proven and punished by the NFL or any major US league.

It doesn’t involve individual players throwing games, but rather occurs at the front-office level, where executives favor cheaper, less-experienced rosters over squads of high-priced veterans. Typically, tanking teams save money on payroll, but more importantly, they improve their chances of landing top, young talent in an upcoming draft, the order of which is determined by record with the worst teams picking first.

Proving tanking could be difficult because it comes with a built-in defense: Any team accused of the practice could theoretically claim to be taking a long-term approach to rebuilding its roster with an eye towards getting younger players more experience.

That was certainly the case for Flores with the young Dolphins in 2019, when they finished just 5-11 with a roster he inherited from a previous regime in Miami.

‘Indeed, during the 2019 season, Miami’s owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss, and the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that ”Steve” was ”mad” that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was ”compromising [the team’s] draft position.”’

Flores’s tanking allegation against Ross may have opened the NFL up to similar claims.

Ex-Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson implied on social media that he was paid to lose games by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

In Twitter exchange, Jackson wrote that Haslam ‘was happy while we kept losing.’

In a subsequent tweet, Jackson posted, ‘Trust me, it was a good number!’

In yet another tweet, he wrote, ‘I can back up every word I’m saying.’  

Ex-Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson (left) implied on social media that he was paid to lose games by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (right)

Ex-Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson (left) implied on social media that he was paid to lose games by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (right)

Both Ross and the Haslam’s Browns have denied the claims by Flores and Jackson.   

‘I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let [Flores’ charges] stand without responding,’ Ross said in a statement earlier this month. ‘I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory.

‘We understand there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization, from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.’

The Browns responded in a statement as well: ‘The recent comments by Hue Jackson and his representatives relating to his tenure as our head coach are completely fabricated. Any accusation that any member of our organization was incentivized to deliberately lose games is categorically false.’ 

Hue Jackson didn't hold back when the topic of tanking was brought up in Flores's lawsuit

Hue Jackson didn’t hold back when the topic of tanking was brought up in Flores’s lawsuit

As reported by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who is also a lawyer, the Sports Bribery Act ‘criminalizes such conduct’ when bribery is involved. 

Under 18 U.S.C. § 224: ‘Whoever carries into effect, attempts to carry into effect, or conspires with any other person to carry into effect any scheme in commence to influence, in any way, by bribery any sporting contest, with knowledge of the purpose of such scheme is to influence by bribery that contests, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.’

As Florio explained, the offer does not have to be accepted in order to convict. Flores has claimed he refused to lose games at Ross’s request.

According to the law, there is only liability if the accused ‘carries into effect’ a scheme or bribe. So the offer of $100,000 could constitute a violation.

There’s no indication that authorities are looking into the matter, but as Florio noted, ‘federal prosecutors have broad discretion as to the cases they will bring or not bring.’

WHAT IS ‘TANKING’ AND WHY DO SOME TEAMS TRY TO LOSE? 

By Alex Raskin, Sports News Editor for

Known as ‘tanking,’ the practice of turning a mediocre team into a bad one for the purposes of improving draft positioning isn’t unheard of, although it’s never been proven and punished by the NFL or any major US league.

It doesn’t involve individual players throwing games, but rather occurs at the front-office level, where executives favor cheaper, less-experienced rosters over squads of high-priced veterans. Typically, tanking teams save money on payroll, but more importantly, they improve their chances of landing top, young talent in an upcoming draft, the order of which is determined by record with the worst teams picking first.

Former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson (right) implied on social media that he was paid to tank by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (left), adding that he has proof. In a series of back-and-forth tweets regarding Flores' lawsuit, Jackson posted that Haslam 'was happy while we kept losing'

Former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson (right) implied on social media that he was paid to tank by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (left), adding that he has proof. In a series of back-and-forth tweets regarding Flores’ lawsuit, Jackson posted that Haslam ‘was happy while we kept losing’

Proving tanking could be difficult because it comes with a built-in defense: Any team accused of the practice could theoretically claim to be taking a long-term approach to rebuilding its roster with an eye towards getting younger players more experience.

That was certainly the case for Flores with the young Dolphins in 2019, when they finished just 5-11 with a roster he inherited from a previous regime in Miami.

‘Indeed, during the 2019 season, Miami’s owner, Stephen Ross, told Mr. Flores that he would pay him $100,000 for every loss, and the team’s General Manager, Chris Grier, told Mr. Flores that ”Steve” was ”mad” that Mr. Flores’ success in winning games that year was ”compromising [the team’s] draft position.”’

Flores’s tanking allegation against Ross may have opened the NFL up to similar claims.

Ex-Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson implied on social media that he was paid to lose games by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

In Twitter exchange, Jackson wrote that Haslam ‘was happy while we kept losing.’ And later, Jackson posted, ‘Trust me, it was a good number!’ 

Both Ross and the Haslam’s Browns have denied the claims by Flores and Jackson. 

Flores the NFL, Dolphins, Broncos, and Giants on February 1 over alleged racist hiring practices for coaches and general managers, saying the league remains ‘rife with racism’ even as it publicly condemns it.

The lawsuit alleges that the league has discriminated against Flores and other black coaches for racial reasons, denying them positions as head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, as well as general managers.

Flores, 40, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.

NEW YORK GIANTS’ INTERVIEW TIMELINE 

  • January 21: Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen is hired as new Giants GM
  • January 21: Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll interviews with Schoen and Giants’ co-owners 
  • January 24: Ex-Dolphins head coach Brian Flores receives text messages from Bill Belichick, who apparently intended to message Daboll to congratulate him on being the Giants’ choice. Flores asked if Belichick was texting the right Brian, to which the longtime Patriots coach said he had made a mistake.
  • January 25: Brian Daboll receives a second interview with Giants
  • January 26: Flores has dinner with Schoen
  • January 27: Flores interviews with Giants, satisfying the Rooney Rule because it is an in-person meeting with someone outside the organization
  • January 28: Daboll is hired as head coach

The former New England assistant included text messages in the lawsuit from his former boss, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, which Flores claims show that his January 27 interview for the Giants head-coaching position was a ‘sham.’

Belichick was apparently trying to message former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who had already interviewed for the Giants position and was ultimately given the job. Informed by Belichick’s text messages, Flores now believes the Giants already knew they were hiring Daboll and were simply interviewing him to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to meet with at least one outside minority candidate for top coaching and executive positions.

The Brooklyn-born son of black Honduran immigrants, Flores said he was disappointed to be going into an interview for the Giants’ job with the knowledge that he wasn’t truly a candidate.

‘Mr. Flores was not only denied the Head Coach position of the New York Giants but was humiliated in the process as the New York Giants subjected him to a sham interview in an attempt to appear to provide a Black candidate with a legitimate chance at obtaining the job,’ read the discrimination lawsuit, obtained by DailyMail.com.

The text message from Belichick to his former assistant began with the Patriots coach saying, ‘Sounds like you have landed – congrats!!’

A confused Flores responded: ‘Did you hear something I didn’t here?’

‘I interview on Thursday. I think I have a shot.’

Belichick assured him that he does.

‘Got it. I hear from Buffalo & NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to!!’

Flores then told his mentor that he hopes he’s right before questioning whether Belichick has reached out to the right person.

‘Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll. Just making sure.’

Belichick quickly realized his shocking fumble.

‘Sorry. I f***ed this up. I double checked and misread my text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB’

The now-shattered Flores signed off: ‘Thanks Bill.’

The Giants announced that they hired Daboll on January 28.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross 'could lose the club' over NFL tanking probe over Brian Flores's claims Text messages between fired Dolphins coach Brian Flores and Patriots coach Bill Belichick were presented as evidence in lawsuit

Text messages between fired Dolphins coach Brian Flores and Patriots coach Bill Belichick were presented as evidence in lawsuit

The Giants allegedly had decided on former Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (pictured) before they interviewed Brian Flores, who is now suing the NFL for discrimination

The Giants allegedly had decided on former Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (pictured) before they interviewed Brian Flores, who is now suing the NFL for discrimination 

In a statement, the team denied Flores’s accusations of racism.

‘We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll,’ the statement said. ‘We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach.’

WHAT IS THE NFL’S ROONEY RULE? 

Named for late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the Rooney Rule is an NFL policy requiring teams to interview ethnic minorities from outside the organization for head-coaching and top-executive positions. 

Despite the rule being on the books since 2003, the NFL currently has only one black head coach, the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin. 

The Patriots have not made Belichick available for comment since the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, nor have the Giants done so with Daboll.

Flores made a similar accusation against Denver Broncos president and legendary NFL quarterback John Elway stemming from a 2019 job interview in Providence, Rhode Island.

Flores said in the lawsuit that Elway, then the team’s general manager, and president/CEO Joe Ellis showed up an hour late for his interview at a Providence, Rhode Island hotel, and they ‘looked completely disheveled and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before.’

Elway responded that he seriously considered Flores, one of five candidates for the job that ultimately went to then-Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. And he denied Flores’s contention he was hungover and just going through the motions to satisfy the league’s requirement that teams interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs.

‘For Brian to make an assumption about my appearance and state of mind early that morning was subjective, hurtful and just plain wrong,’ Elway said in his statement.

Elway said that if he appeared disheveled, ‘it was because we had just flown in during the middle of the night’ following an interview in Denver with another candidate, Mike Munchak, ‘and were going on a few hours of sleep to meet the only window provided to us.’

At the time, Flores was the linebackers coach and defensive play caller for the New England Patriots. He was hired by the Dolphins shortly after his interview with the Broncos.

Denver Broncos president and legendary NFL quarterback John Elway (pictured) is refuting Brian Flores's claim in a lawsuit that his interview with the Denver Broncos in 2019 was a sham and only conducted to satisfy the league's Rooney Rule

Denver Broncos president and legendary NFL quarterback John Elway (right) is refuting Brian Flores’s claim in a lawsuit that his interview with the Denver Broncos in 2019 was a sham and only conducted to satisfy the league’s Rooney Rule

Flores said in the lawsuit that Elway, then the team's general manager, and CEO Joe Ellis showed up an hour late for his interview at a Providence hotel, and they 'looked completely disheveled and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before.'

Flores said in the lawsuit that Elway, then the team’s general manager, and CEO Joe Ellis showed up an hour late for his interview at a Providence hotel, and they ‘looked completely disheveled and it was obvious that they had been drinking heavily the night before.’

‘I interviewed Brian in good faith, giving him the same consideration and opportunity as every other candidate for our head coaching position in 2019,’ Elway said.

Elway said he enjoyed his 3 1/2-hour interview with Flores and was ‘prepared, ready and fully engaged … as Brian shared his experience and vision for our team.’

‘It’s unfortunate and shocking to learn for the first time this week that Brian felt differently about our interview with him,’ Elway added.

Flores filed his bombshell discrimination lawsuit against the NFL in Manhattan on Tuesday, alleging ‘racist hiring practices’ and accused the league of being run ‘like a plantation.’

The NFL currently has only two black head coach, the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Texans’ Lovie Smith, while roughly 70 percent of players are African Americans.

The job ultimately went to then-Bears assistant Vic Fangio in 2019. He has since been fired

The job ultimately went to then-Bears assistant Vic Fangio in 2019. He has since been fired

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