Six NFL owners have given Cowboys owner Jerry Jones a cease-and-desist warning and are exploring possibilities to punish him after he threatened both the league and fellow owners with a lawsuit to stop commissioner Roger Goodell from receiving a new contract, according to The New York Times.
Jones has threatened to sue the six members of the NFL’s compensation committee, which is in charge of negotiating Goodell’s contract, if the committee does not seek approval on the deal from the rest of the 32 league owners, even though the owners unanimously voted to give the committee autonomy to negotiate the deal in May.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Jones’s threat of litigation on a conference call earlier this month prompted this reaction from Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the head of the compensation committee: “I’m shocked. I’m disappointed. We may have differences, Jerry, but this is not the way we resolve them. This is not the way we do things in the NFL.”
The six owners on the compensation committee issued the warning after a conference call on Monday. As punishment, the league could void a future Cowboys draft pick, fine Jones, or suspend him. On Sunday, ProFootballTalk reported that a league source said multiple owners discussed using a “nuclear option” to force Jones to forfeit his franchise, though that possibility seems extremely unlikely.
Jones has said he wants a review of Goodell’s contract, which expires after the 2018 season, because of recent developments that he views as league blunders, such as the league’s handling of players protesting against racial inequality during the national anthem. Jones has also argued that the commissioner is grossly overpaid. Goodell has already earned over $200 million in his decade as commissioner, and, according to an ESPN report, Goodell requested in his new contract that he receive a $49.5 million annual salary, the lifetime use of a private jet, and lifetime health insurance for his family.
But some owners feel Jones is retaliating against Goodell for suspending Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games after a league investigation into domestic violence allegations, which Jones called an “overcorrection.” Jones has denied he is seeking revenge for Elliott’s suspension. There are also rumors that Jones encouraged Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter to criticize the league; Schnatter recently said the NFL’s “poor leadership” regarding player protests had hurt Papa John’s business. Jones is an investor in Papa John’s and has also appeared in the pizza chain’s commercials.
“There is little question in my mind that Jerry Jones wants to overthrow Roger Goodell,” one owner anonymously told Sports Illustrated.
Jones interjected himself into the NFL’s six-owner compensation committee over the summer, joining the committee’s conference calls as a non-voting seventh member. He used that position to stall Goodell’s contract negotiations throughout the summer. The committee members removed Jones from the committee this month after Jones threatened legal action.
The compensation committee includes Blank, Giants co-owner John Mara, Steelers owner Art Rooney II, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Texans owner Bob McNair, and Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Before Blank’s Falcons shellacked Jones’s Cowboys on Sunday to the tune of 27-7, Blank skipped the customary pregame pleasantries between owners, which Jones called, “rare.”
Blank released a statement Monday saying the committee would continue to finalize Goodell’s contract, which would accelerate the legal collision course between the league’s most prominent owner and the owners fighting on behalf of the commissioner.