Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to sue the NFL over a proposed contract extension for commissioner Roger Goodell, a dispute sparked by star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence, the New York Times reports.
Jones told the six owners on the compensation committee that he hired high-profile attorney David Boies and was prepared to sue if the group voted to give Goodell a contract extension. Jones also has expressed disapproval with the structure and compensation in the contract extension.
All 32 owners voted in May to extend Goodell’s contract and authorized the compensation committee to work out the details.
Goodell suspended Elliott in August after a yearlong NFL investigation. Prosecutors in Ohio declined to pursue the domestic violence case.
The Times reported that Jones, in a conference call last week with the six owners on the compensation committee, told them that legal papers were drawn up and would be served Friday if the committee did not scrap its plans to extend Goodell’s contract. The Times also reported that after Jones spoke to the committee, the owners revoked Jones’ status as an ad hoc member of the compensation committee and then spoke to the other 25 owners who are not on the committee to notify them of what Jones had said.
The six members of the committee, led by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, asked Jones to leave the discussions after they learned he had hired Boies, sources told Outside the Lines.
According to an ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ report, Jones is one of four or five owners who believe Goodell should not continue as commissioner. Another half-dozen owners are on the fence about his return.
Goodell is reportedly furious about Jones and other owners insistence that his next contract be more performance-based, including incentives that would allow him to be paid at roughly the same level of his current deal.
“He feels as if the owners have made a lot of money and he should be compensated accordingly,” a source told ESPN. “The incentives thing really angers him.”
Goodell has earned over $200 million since he was elected commissioner in August 2006, including $44 million in 2014 and $34 million in 2015. In May, at the league’s spring meetings in Chicago, Jones joined his fellow owners in authorizing the compensation committee to work on extending Goodell’s contract. But at the owners’ meetings in New York last month, Jones told his fellow owners that Goodell’s proposed next contract “is the most one-sided deal ever.”
Jones has expressed growing dissatisfaction with Goodell’s job performance and has said in recent weeks that the league needs to hire a new commissioner. The reasons include Goodell suspending Elliott for violating the league’s domestic violence policy; his handling of the player protests staged during the national anthem; and the league’s handling of the relocation of two teams to Los Angeles, which Jones helped engineer.
Many owners are also angry with Goodell because they believe that he has given Jones too much power.
“Most owners would admit that Roger has done a terrible job handling the anthem controversy and a terrible job explaining the [TV] ratings declines, a terrible job on any number of other issues,” a long-time team executive told ESPN.
According to the ‘Outside the Lines’ report, some owners believe the NFL league office suffers from “dysfunction,” and at least two owners have said they wouldn’t replace Goodell because they don’t know who they’d replace him with.
A silent majority of owners believe Goodell’s performance has been poor but still support him because they prefer to have Goodell lead the owners’ side in labor negotiations with the players’ union. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021.
Jones is not a member of the NFL’s six-member compensation committee. Jones has called himself the “ombudsman” of the committee and has become a de facto seventh unofficial member who attended a recent conference call of the committee.
Some owners feel that Jones has lost potential support because he has his own candidate to replace Goodell. That turned some against him as they believe he’s trying to gain complete control of the league.
Another executive told ESPN he believes that Jones’ insistence to inject himself into the process has increased Goodell’s resolve to sign a long-term deal.
If Jones decided to follow through with his lawsuit threat, it would be the second time he has sued the NFL. In the mid-1990s, Jones filed a $750 million antitrust lawsuit against the NFL over its insistence that teams do not enter into separate sponsorship agreements; Jones and the league later settled that claim.