Stephen Ross was gracious when he fired Brian Flores last month.
“I’d like to thank Brian Flores for all that he’s done for the Miami Dolphins,” the team owner said. “He’s a very good man, and I wish him the best.”
That was then, this is now.
Flores filed a lawsuit Tuesday that accuses the NFL and some of its teams of racist hiring practices — and alleges that Ross offered him big money to lose games in 2019 to secure a top draft pick.
“That was a conversation about not doing as much as we needed to do to win football games,” Flores said in an ESPN interview Wednesday. “Take a flight, go on vacation. I’ll give you $100,000 per loss. Those were his exact words.”
[ALSO SEE: Read the full lawsuit filed by Brian Flores]
In a statement released early Thursday, Ross said:
“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding. I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory. We understand there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization, from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”
Ross, 81, did not specifically address the charge that he offered Flores money to tank.
Condo king Jorge Perez, Ross’ longtime friend and business partner, told Local 10 News in an email: “I was shocked and hurt by the accusations leveled against him. That Steve would try to pay a coach $100,000 dollars to lose a game is totally ridiculous.”
Flores’ attorney Douglas Wigdor said that corroborating evidence, including witnesses, emails and text messages, would come out.
At stake is Ross’ reputation, built over years as a successful real estate developer, capped by his Hudson Yards in New York City.
He bought the Dolphins in 2009, and some critics say it’s time for him to sell the team.
“There’s one way out: Ross agrees to lay down like he asked Flores to do,” South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde wrote. “Give up the franchise. Throw in the towel. ... No one even needs to insult Ross by offering $100,000 to quit.”
The Dolphins franchise is believed to be worth about $3.5 billion. Ross is worth more than $8 billion, according to Forbes.
But this fight isn’t about money, it’s about reputation, honesty and integrity — for both Ross and Flores.
The first pretrial hearing in the suit is set for March 18 in federal court.