Jerry Jones, the most powerful owner in sports, has declared war on Roger Goodell, the most powerful man in sports, and the NFL, the league he helped build into the most successful in the world.
It was just over two years ago that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was enraged when Goodell suspended Tom Brady four games in the Deflategate crisis/nonsense.
Kraft considers Brady his fifth son and with all his heart vouches for his integrity and character. When Brady looked him right in the eye and swore to him that he knew nothing about deflated footballs, Kraft believed him and will always believe him.
In California at the Cowboys training camp in Oxnard that summer, one powerful voice emerged in Goodell’s corner: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“He’s obviously got a very tough job,” Jones said.
One other thing: He said Goodell was doing an “outstanding” job.
“He has to make hard calls,” Jones said. “More often than not, you’re going to have a season or you’re going to have a period of time where those go against you as an owner in the NFL.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ramps up his fight with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jones was all-in on Goodell. Brady was not his player. He clearly does not feel that way anymore.
He’s had it with Goodell and the source of his anger is the still unresolved six-game domestic violence suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Jones said all summer that he believed there was not enough evidence to prove Elliott assaulted his girlfriend, but then after a year-long investigation, Elliott was suspended six games.
I mentioned Sunday that Jones vs. Goodell was a heavyweight fight with Goodell vs. Brady just the prelim. Now they have entered the ring.
Jones worked his way onto the NFL’s six-owner compensation committee as an official member and has been trying to block Goodell’s proposed five-year contract extension through March of 2024.
It went one step further Wednesday when the New York Times reported that Jones hired high-powered attorney David Boies, who represented the NFL during the lockout in 2011, and Jones is threatening to sue the league and team owners over negotiations to extend Goodell’s contract. Boies, by the way, has been in the news and has been criticized for the legal work he did for Harvey Weinstein.
Jones informed the six owners, which includes John Mara of the Giants, of his intentions last week and they revoked his non-voting membership on their committee, according to the Times. The six then informed the other 25 owners of Jones’ intention. Jones told the committee, according to the Times, that he’s had legal papers prepared and would be served Friday if the committee did not end plans to extend Goodell’s contract, which expires in March of 2019.
This is already nasty and it’s going to get nastier. The last owner to go into full battle with the NFL was the late Al Davis, whose constant battles with Pete Rozelle contributed to Rozelle retiring in 1989. Davis sued the league and moved the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982.
Roger Goodell (l.) and Jerry Jones in happier times.
Jones recently said on his weekly radio show that Elliott was a “victim of an overcorrection,” by Goodell after he initially suspended Ray Rice for only two games in 2014 in his domestic violence case. Then, the second elevator video came out and Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely. His ruling was later overturned and Goodell faced an avalanche of criticism that could have cost him his job.
Elliott and the NFL have been trading legal victories in three different courtrooms over the last two months. Elliott has played in all eight games in the Cowboys 5-3 start to the season and could find out this week if the Second Circuit Court of Appeals grants him a preliminary injunction that would likely allow him to play the rest of the season while his court case is being heard. If they deny it, he would likely have to start serving his suspension right away.
Jones has remained firm in his support of Elliott. He once fought the NFL over the right to market his team on his own. He eventually changed the way the NFL does business.
In this case, he has backed his player over the commissioner in an area where the league now employs zero tolerance and strict penalties.
Kraft begrudgingly accepted a $ 1 million fine and the loss of a first-round pick as the team’s Deflategate penalty. He was more upset about Brady’s suspension. Kraft never fought his penalties in court. He never hired a lawyer to fight the NFL.
Jones is the real-life J.R. Ewing. He usually gets his way. Now he’s going against a $ 14 billion enterprise he helped build.
He is also a team player but has picked his team over the NFL team. He surely no longer thinks Goodell is doing an outstanding job.