This week has been a whirlwind of reveals in the NFL. Brian Flores filed suit against the NFL for a plethora of claims including racial discrimination. Brian Flores also claimed that Miami Dolphins Owner, Stephen Ross, offered him $100,000 bonus for every loss in the 2019 season. That was a stunning revelation, yet it was hearsay (admissible hearsay), but hearsay nonetheless. Then a few days ago an article appeared on the nfl.com website with an accompanying tweet about a potential witness to corroborate the claim by Former Miami Dolphins Head Coach, Brian Flores that owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss during the 2019 season.
The obvious thinking regarding losing on purpose commonly known as “tanking” is that you ensure that you get a very, very high pick preferably the number #1 overall pick to put yourself in position to acquire a franchise QB. The star QB of the 2020 NFL draft was in fact Cincinnati Bengals QB, Joe Burrow who was a prime target for a trade in the draft. The Miami Dolphins held several First Round Picks including the #5 overall in the 2020 draft but were unable to convince the Bengals to part with the rights to draft Joe Burrow (a very wise decision indeed). Flash forward to today and Joe Burrow aka “Joey Brrrr” is facing off against fellow SEC QB, Matthew Stafford in Super Bowl XLVI next Sunday at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles while Dolphins starting QB, Tua Tagovailoa is probably off not learning his playbook somewhere. The article then disappeared. However, that begs the question, why would an article with a potential witness simply “disappear”? Well, that article could have been the smoking gun in a potential criminal case against Stephen Ross for Bribery in Athletic Contests.
When prosecutors are deciding whether to file charges against a defendant, they always look to see what corroborating evidence they have because the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is an incredibly high bar to achieve. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office would need more than Brian Flores saying Stephen Ross offered me $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season. That is because a prosecutor is not going to want to go to trial on just those facts because Mr. Ross would be facing a dream team of lawyers in a potential criminal trial. It would be a 5-10 minute Not Guilty. However, a potential corroborating witness is a horse of a different color. In any criminal case, if you have an independent witness who doesn’t have a dog in the fight, their testimony is exceptionally compelling to a jury.
A jury listens to that witness with their full attention because what motive do they have to lie? A great prosecutor then digs deeper and finds out that this potential witness is one of several potential witnesses or even that physical evidence exists. I personally do not think Mr. Ross would be careless enough to make that offer via email or in writing. As seen above, this charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. However, the offense is a level one offense (Florida follows sentencing guidelines and as such any potential conviction would not result in prison). A conviction could absolutely lead to an adjudication or even jail time. However, how likely would that be? Without the corroborating witness, the likelihood of a conviction is close to zero. Under the statute, an individual need only to promise payment to somebody in a position to control the outcome of the game. A coach can absolutely control the outcome of the game.
Additionally, Brian Flores allegedly rejected the offer and did nothing to intentionally lose games. However, with an independent corroborating witness, the potential for conviction jumps to roughly 60%+ because the prosecutor will explain why Stephen Ross wanted Brian Flores to tank; he wanted Joe Burrow. If Joe Burrow wins the Super Bowl, everybody in the country will know his name and those who watched the Super Bowl will understand EXACTLY why Stephen Ross allegedly offered Brian Flores what he did. If he lost, all 16 games, Flores would have collected $1.6 million. That is peanuts compared to money Ross would make on Joe Burrow jerseys, season tickets, marketing opportunities etc. Stephen Ross would make it back 1000x if Flores accepted.
There was another report that Stephen Ross tried to facilitate an impromptu meeting between Flores and pending Free Agent Quarterback, Tom Brady when their yachts just happened to be near each other. The corroborating witness article got taken down because my educated guess is that attorneys for Stephen Ross’ made NFL.com take it down. If a prospective prosecutor saw that article, you better bet some prosecutor would have asked law enforcement to investigate. Motive is not required to be proven in a Florida criminal case. However, the jury can connect the dots that Mr. Ross wanted to acquire a true franchise Quarterback by any means necessary. Hopefully, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office opens an investigation; because after seeing what happened with Washington, we know the NFL doesn’t truly conduct independent investigations.
Matthew F. Tympanick is the Founder/Principal of Tympanick Law, P.A., located in Sarasota, Florida, where he focuses his practice on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts School of Law where he served as a Public Interest Fellow and as a Staff Editor on the UMass Law Review. He was previously a felony prosecutor for over three years and civil attorney for nearly two years in Sarasota, Florida. As a prosecutor, he tried nearly forty jury and non-jury trials and prosecuted thousands more. You can follow him on Twitter @TympanickLaw. Arrested or Injured? Don’t Panic…Call Tympanick (1-888-NOPANIC). www.tympanicklaw.com