It probably takes a certain level of audacity to become a billionaire, to parlay an uncle paying for your education and your mom floating you money to live off of after you got fired from your first job into a portfolio that includes real estate properties around the world and an NFL franchise.
Like the audacity of throwing anyone under the bus you deem to be in your way as you accumulate obscene amounts of wealth.
The audacity of smearing anyone else in an effort to keep your own hide clean.
The audacity of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
On Tuesday, the NFL announced the findings of its six-month investigation into allegations of tampering and tanking, levied by former Miami head coach Brian Flores as part of his groundbreaking class-action suit against the Dolphins, and the NFL. And the findings were not pretty.
In a statement, the league confirmed that Ross and his vice chairman, Bruce Beal, tampered with Tom Brady, not once, but twice. The league says this happened throughout the 2019 season, when Brady was still under contract with the New England Patriots and again in early 2022 when Brady was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL found they also engaged in talks with head coach Sean Payton while he was still with the New Orleans Saints.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said they were “tampering violations of an unprecedented scale. I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and a 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.”
For a group that fiercely protects its own (maybe you’ve heard of Daniel Snyder and the numerous allegations against him), Goodell’s words are significant.
As for the tanking charge? The NFL did Ross a massive favor, which is no big surprise because again, he’s a team owner.
Ross repeatedly said that the Dolphins’ 2020 draft position should take precedence over its 2019 win-loss record, and that yes, Ross may have offered Flores $100,000 per loss as Flores claimed. Yet the NFL said it wasn’t intended to be a serious offer. A mere joke. A ha-ha. A little funny from Ross because who doesn’t joke about giving people money to fail?
Thanks to Ross’ actions, Miami has been docked its 2023 first-round draft pick, a third-round pick in 2024, and Ross is suspended from the team until mid-October.
And yet what did the statement attributed to Ross and distributed by the Dolphins after this announcement say? Did it say “I’m sorry for embarrassing the team’s fans”? Did it say, “In pursuit of winning, I clearly went too far”?
Stephen Ross had the audacity to try to smear the Black guy. Again.
“The independent investigation cleared our organization on any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores’ other allegations,” it began. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory.”
"Malicious," you say?
Like firing the winningest coach your franchise has had under your ownership, and then making sure to tell the media he was “very difficult to work with” as you kicked him out the door? And then on Tuesday roping that same man into your statement when you were punished for your many misdeeds?
That sounds "malicious."
Flores’ integrity probably kept Ross from getting in even more trouble.
In Goodell’s words, “Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comments about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to win throughout the season.”
Lest anyone forget, the 2019 Dolphins lost their first two games by a combined score of 102-10, dropped to 0-7 by Halloween before finishing 5-11.
Brian Flores saved Ross's tail.
He refused to lose games on purpose. He refused to be part of a campaign to sign Brady when it was clearly tampering and against league rules. Flores is smart enough to know that had Miami been caught in the moment, Ross would have likely had the audacity to blame him for it. We see now that almost certainly would have been the case.
You know what else takes audacity? Refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement that will pay millions in exchange for silence, and filing a lawsuit against one of the most popular institutions in the country to expose its institutionalized racism because of a refusal to go along and be the polite Black man they want you to be, showing up for interviews knowing there's no chance of getting the job in the hopes that some day maybe it will be real and you’ll get the chance long since earned.
That kind of audacity also requires integrity. Brian Flores has it. Even Roger Goodell recognized it.
Stephen Ross, as he showed Tuesday, certainly does not.