Stephen Ross NFL cheating scandal a new low for failed owner who embarrasses Miami Dolphins | Opinion

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·4 min read
David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com
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It would be a Herculean task; no, impossible. Better you should be asked to locate a particular grain of sand on Miami Beach.

But if you had to find something good to say today about Stephen Ross, the shamed, scandalized, found-guilty owner of the Miami Dolphins, you might at least, say, what ... that he sure did want to win pretty badly? Like, something awful?

Points for gumption, at least. Aimed high. For G.O.A.T. quarterback Tom Brady and Super Bowl winning coach Sean Payton. Hey, if you’re gonna cheat, cheat big, right?

How Ross went about trying to win, alas, was not through traditional channels like good hiring and smart drafting, but, it turns out, by blatant cheating of a magnitude that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday called “unprecedented.”

Ross not only cheated, he cheated badly, unsuccessfully, with no guile whatsoever, but as clumsily ham-handed as an amateur thief smiling at the security camera. He wanted to win something awful, and did something awful to get there, and got caught.

Ross, 82, would resign immediately as Dolphins owner if he cared about the franchise. The trouble is, owner-in-waiting Bruce Beal also was implicated in the cheating scheme, calling into some doubt who the club’s future owner might be.

Dolphins fans and the franchise’s battered good name deserve ownership with integrity.

Instead, now, on the doorstep of the 2022 NFL season, a once-proud franchise endures the worst of a failed two-decade reign of error by a clown owner.

As excitement builds around the current team, with season ticket sales booming, the owner himself defecates on his own team and fan base.

And as the franchise prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its hallmark 1972 Perfect Season, the old ghosts and the Perfectos still with us can only mourn what has become of their club on Ross’ watch.

You thought 15 seasons without a playoff win defined the Ross regime interspersed with scandals like Bullygate or the assistant coach snorting cocaine off his training camp desk?

Nah. This defines Ross: The gumption to cheat on a grand scale, and to do so with with such spectacular failure.

The Cleveland Browns and Deshaun Watson had better be shipping a beautiful gift basket to Ross for diverting national attention for a minute away from their own scandal.

The good news there? At least Ross failed at that, too. Spent a year infatuated by Watson and and publicly humiliating quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the pursuit ultimately with nothing to show.

The news broke midday Tuesday, and it broke like a Stephen Ross-shaped pinata.

A six-month NFL investigation found Ross as well as Dolphins vice chairman (and future owner-in-waiting Beal both violated “integrity of the game” rules by tampering between 2019 and ‘22 to lure the QB Brady while he still was under contract with the Patriots and later the Buccaneers. And also tampered to lure coach Payton while he still was under contract with the Saints.

[Quick aside: “Integrity of the game.” An interesting concept in the NFL, especially the week that Watson is given a six-game slap on the wrist and no fine for sexual misconduct with myriad female accusers, conduct verified by an NFL investigation).

In the latest league headache Ross was fined $1.5 million and Beal $500,000. Ross also was suspended from all team involvement until October and temporarily suspended from league committee involvement and league meetings. Far more damaging to the team, the Dolphins were made to forfeit their 2023 first-round draft pick and a third-rounder in 2024.

“The investigation found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with with both a head coach and a star player, to the potential detriment of other clubs, over a period of several years. I [also] know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violation.”

This all began with fired coach Brian Flores’ February lawsuit against the league and Dolphins alleging racism in hiring practices. Flores alleged Ross offered him a $100,000 bribe per loss in 2019 to “tank” for a higher draft pick. The investigation did find Ross made comments prioritizing draft position over won-lost record.

Still, rather pathetically, Ross claimed victory Tuesday over Flores’ allegations, even though Goodell said, “Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to win.”

Ross also and said he “strongly disagreed” with the league’s conclusions and punishment on the tampering,” while Flores said in a statement he was disappointed that in the league punishment handed down Ross “will avoid any meaningful consequence.”)

Indeed, a $1.5 million fine to a man whose net worth is estimated at $8.2 billion is pocket change. Loose coins under the sofa cushion.

But then there’s the one thing no amount of money can prevent a man from losing or buy back once he has:

His reputation.