How does severe Dolphins penalty connect to racial discrimination in NFL?
The National Football League has been rocked this week by punishments levied in two of the most embarrassing off-the-field scandals in its history.
An independent arbiter has recommended a six-game suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson due to allegations of sexual assault brought against him by 24 female massage therapists.
The NFL appealed the suspension, so we'll take a day or so to unpack it all.
The other shoe dropped Tuesday when the league announced its findings in its six-month investigation of allegations made by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had tampered with quarterback Tom Brady and former Saints head coach Sean Payton, and also ordered him to tank games.
The Dolphins and Ross were found guilty of the tampering charge. The team will forfeit a 2023 first-round draft choice and 2024 third-round pick, Ross will be fined $1.5 million, suspended from any contact with his team until Oct. 17, and unable to attend any league meetings until 2023.
Dolphins vice chairman Bruce Beal was also fined $500,000 for initiating the illegal contact with Brady and Payton's agent, Don Yee.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity. 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."
Of the other charge made by Flores -- that Ross offered him $100,000 per loss for "tanking" games during the 2019 season -- lead investigator and former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White found no evidence Ross had ordered Flores to deliberately lose games.
Ross did make comments to team president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, general manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon Shore and Flores that the team's draft position should take priority over winning games.
But when Flores expressed his concerns in writing, he was assured everyone wanted him to build a "winning culture in Miami."
White added that Ross' 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."
Ross, who has called Flores' tanking allegations "false, malicious and defamatory," said of the tampering findings, "With regard to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment. However, I will accept the outcome."
Flores still has a pending lawsuit against the NFL and the Dolphins, Broncos, Giants, Texans, Cardinals and Titans claiming racial discrimination against minorities in its hiring practices.
In a league in which roughly 60% of the players are minorities but only three of 32 head coaches are Black, clearly there is a problem.
With the owners hiring just one head coach, whether racial discrimination is the cause is a different question.
While the findings and punishment against the Dolphins are historic and severe it is almost certainly just an exhibition game compared to the much bigger story to come.