Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and one Dolphins fan had an uncomfortable exchange at halftime of Sunday's game between the Dolphins and Raiders and the organization is trying to figure out what to do about the issue even as fans are calling a local radio station to report the matter.
According to multiple eyewitnesses who called local station The Ticket and a highly placed club source who confirmed the exchange to The Herald, the Dolphins general manager was walking through the Sun Life Stadium concourse at halftime when the incident occurred.
After visiting his wife and family in his suite, Ireland exchanged pleasantries with a couple of fans, signed autographs and took pictures with at least two other fans as he headed back to his seat where he watches the game. Before he got there another fan called him over and Ireland, believing he was about to exchange more pleasantries, found himself listening to the fan complaining about his work.
That fan complained to Ireland about what he said was his poor management of the team. And at one point that fan said to Ireland, "We need you to fire yourself."
According to everyone I've talked to including team officials, Ireland responded by using the term "a--hole" either directed at the fan or loud enough for the fan to hear as he walked away.
The Dolphins contend there was no argument between Ireland and the fan. The fan, going by the name Sean, called The Ticket and confirmed there wasn't an argument. But the fan did say, "The sum and substance of what I suggested is that he should fire himself."
Sean told The Ticket's Eric Reid Show that Ireland patted him on the shoulder, said, "Good one," called him the epithet, and walked away.
"I don't begrude the guy for not appreciating what I had to say," Sean told the station. "I can't tell you I wouldn't respond any differently if someone said I should fire myself. By the same token, I'm not the general manager of a professional football team.
"I feel like I expressed an opinion he probably needed to hear."
A Dolphins source has a different version of the events. The team's version is that Ireland simply walked away and that as he was walking away he said "kind of out loud" the word "a--hole."
The Dolphins are expected to meet in the coming hours to decide what course of action or response the uncovering of this incident will get, the source said.
Update: Jeff Ireland just called me. The Dolphins did indeed discuss the matter internally. He told me he regrets the incident.
"It did happen at halftime and I was going back to my booth after seeing my wife and I did talk to several fans that were very nice. But as I'm walking back this guy introduces himself to me and says I should fire myself," Ireland said.
"It caught me off guard. I just turned and walked away but I did say the word. I regret I used the word I used. I thought I was using it under my breath. I guess I kind of said it loud enough that he could hear it. I literally said it under my breath. At the time I felt I handled the situation pretty good. Probably muttered it a little too loud. I regret that I said anything."
The Dolphins are planning to use Ireland's quote to me as their official statement on the matter.