NFL’s Integrity Under Fire After Flores Alleges Dolphins’ Owner Directed Coach To Lose

Written By Mike Mazzeo on February 2, 2022
NFL Coach Brian Flores

Ex-Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores alleges that team owner Stephen Ross instructed him to tank games in an explosive lawsuit. 

As part of his claim, Flores alleges that Ross said he’d pay the coach $100,000 for every loss during the 2019 season in order to obtain a better draft pick.

“That was a conversation about not doing as much as we needed to do to win football games. ‘Take a flight. Go on vacations. I’ll give you $100,000 per loss.’ Those are just the exact words,” Flores said on ESPN Wednesday.

Flores, though, said he refused Ross’ instructions.

“That’s just not in my DNA, that was never going to happen,” Flores said.

The Dolphins won their final two games of the 2019 campaign to finish 5-11. After a 9-8 season in 2021, Miami fired Flores, who led the Dolphins to a 24-25 record in three seasons.

Flores ‘never going to stand’ for tanking Miami Dolphins

The former head coach filed his lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, naming the NFL and three teams as defendants, including the New York Giants.

“I was never going to stand for it. I think it strained our relationship moving forward,” Flores, a native of Brooklyn who interviewed for the New York Giants’ vacancy in what he alleges was a “sham” process, told CNN.

Flores’ lawyers say they have corroborating evidence, plus witnesses, to back up their tanking accusations. 

Flores was fired by Ross despite winning a combined 19 games in 2020 and 2021.

The NFL has said his Flores’ claims are without merit. 

Integrity issues unacceptable for pro sports

Ex-Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson also suggested in a tweet that owner Jimmy Haslam made him a similar offer.

“Trust me it was a good number!” Jackson wrote.

These allegations of a growing integrity scandal are a disaster, with pro sports leagues recently going all-in on gambling. The NFL, for example, has advertising deals with seven sportsbook partners, including several within the NY sports betting market.

“I think that this really a black eye to the NFL, and everything that they’re supposed to stand for,” New York State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told PlayNY. 

Tanking has been a sore subject for several years. But a coach alleging outright that he declined instruction from his owner to intentionally throw games in exchange for big bucks under the table? That’s next-level detail.  

“It’s wrong. I think it’s the height of hypocrisy,” Pretlow said. “And maybe they should change the way draft picks are given out if owners are looking to throw games to get a better pick. If you lose, you lose, but you should always try to win. And you don’t lose on purpose.”

It has been suggested by many in the sports industry that lower-level staffers were likely more of a concern. After all, could players who make upwards of $50 million per season be capable of being bought? Perhaps. But here we have allegations of bribery at the highest level of the organization.

The NBA had to deal with the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal in 2007, when Donaghy pleaded guilty to federal charges that he bet on games and made calls to affect the point spread of those contests. Last season, MLB changed its baseball midseason and didn’t inform the public.

How comfortable can bettors be placing sports wagers given all these issues?

Long-term ramifications of lawsuit could be massive

If the allegations are proven to be factual, it seems hard to envision Ross retaining his ownership of the Dolphins. A long-term, if not lifetime, ban and/or suspension also seems in the cards.

There are also potential legal ramifications.

The sports bribery act reads, in-part:

Whoever carries into effect, attempts to carry into effect, or conspires with any other person to carry into effect any scheme in commerce to influence, in any way, by bribery any sporting contest, with knowledge that the purpose of such scheme is to influence by bribery that contest, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

Ross was an investor as part of a $17.5 million fundraising round in the Action Network, a sports media company that also provides betting insight and advice.

There is also the question of whether Flores had an obligation to report Ross’ tanking comments at the time they were said. But according to a legal expert who spoke to PlayNY, there still aren’t proper whistleblower protections in place. So that is something professional sports leagues will have to take a closer look at, regardless of how this case unfolds.

Just as imperative going forward will be making sure leagues and organizations have strong gambling awareness programs.

“Many of these leagues are way behind in terms of gambling education for their players,” the legal expert said. “They’re still playing catchup.”

Photo by AP / Wilfredo Lee
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is the Lead Writer for PlayNY, arriving after covering several of New York's professional sports teams in a variety of roles for the past decade. Previously, he served as a beat writer and columnist covering the Brooklyn Nets (ESPN) and New York Yankees (New York Daily News). Mike also covered both the MLB and NBA nationally for Yahoo Sports. In addition, he served as a general assignment reporter for ESPN NewYork.com. He has also had bylines in the New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, Forbes and The Ringer. With PlayNY, Mike brings extensive coverage and unique story angles to what is projected to be one of the biggest and most lucrative online sports betting markets in the country. It's been an arduous and confounding process to get here, but 20 million New Yorkers (many of them die-hards) are now legally able to bet on their favorite sports teams across the state via online and mobile platforms.

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