There are many interesting layers to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones leading the charge against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s extension, and one is seeing the league’s owners at odds with each other.
There have been some fractures among the owners, most notably with Al Davis. It has happened with Jones before too. And Goodell’s extension is the root of a battle between Jones and at least one owner in particular: Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen obtained a letter sent by Jones’ lawyer to league counsel and the other NFL owners that said Jones believes they are being misled by Blank on Goodell’s extension. Jones has reportedly threatened to sue the league if Goodell’s extension is approved. Jones was terminated as a non-voting ad-hoc member of the league’s compensation committee by Blank last Saturday, ESPN said, because of his threats to sue the league. (Coincidentally enough, Jones’ Cowboys play at Blank’s Falcons on Sunday … that could get awkward.)
The main issue of contention, it appears, is that Jones says Blank told owners that the six-person compensation committee would be unanimous on Goodell’s extension and Blank has backed off that. ESPN reported that the committee is not unanimous on the contract.
The letter, according to ESPN, also says that committee consultants called Goodell’s current contract “the most one-sided deal they have ever seen.” Goodell has made more than $200 million as NFL commissioner already and the letter states “more than $200 million is at stake” for the extension, ESPN reported. Goodell’s current deal goes through 2018, and the proposed extension would go through 2024. Jones also brought up a discretionary bonus plan for Goodell that wasn’t fully explained to owners and doesn’t account for a “decline in TV ratings that could impact future broadcast rights fees, a reduction in sponsorships and a further damaged league image due to “sloppy” oversight in controversial matters,” ESPN wrote.
ESPN’s story also acknowledged the Ezekiel Elliott part of the story. Jones has denied that the six-game suspension the NFL game his star running back in August has anything to do with his angst over Goodell’s extension, and he brought up transparency in Goodell’s extension back in March. Still, it’s hard to believe Jones’ aggression against Goodell and Elliott’s punishment are entirely unrelated.
NFL counsel Brad Karp replied, according to ESPN, and said Jones’ claims have no merit and were inconsistent with a unanimous resolution that authorized the committee to finish Goodell’s extension.
This is not a great spot for the NFL to be in. It likes to portray a unified front and now Jones, its most famous owner, is battling Blank, another of the NFL’s most visible owners. The battle is over the polarizing Goodell, and Goodell’s standing in the NFL will be questioned from here on out even if his extension is approved. Whereas NFL owners have always made sure to avoid any criticism of Goodell, now it has become a matter of public conversation. Having Jones so adamantly oppose his extension will follow Goodell for the length of the deal — and perhaps that was Jones’ goal, if this had even the slightest bit to do with his anger over the Elliott suspension.
There’s no turning back now. Jones, perhaps the most media-savvy of all owners, had to know the ramifications of his threats. It will get even uglier if he follows through on his threat to sue the league over Goodell’s extension. A league that probably didn’t need any extra off-field drama now finds itself in a volatile situation.
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