Roger Goodell is once again a source of controversy for the NFL. This time, though, it’s not fans or players versus the league. The aggravated party is one of the NFL’s most powerful and prominent owners, the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.
When the news first surfaced that Jones was growing very dissatisfied with many league decisions, including the near-rubber-stamp approval of Goodell’s contract extension, both sides deflected any concern. Jones said he had an opinion on the matter, but voted for the extension anyway. The League said it was operating on the mandate created by the unanimous owner approval of the contract extension.
But all that Kum-Bay-Ya stuff quickly went away after the Associated Press obtained a letter sent to Jones by the NFL, accusing Jones of “conduct detrimental to the league’s best interests.” In the letter, the NFL alleged Jones was actively sabotaging negotiations with Goodell. Jones fired back, threatening to sue the NFL if Goodell’s contract was extended. Even though remember, he voted to approve it earlier this year.
It’s difficult to picture one person facing up to a group as powerful as the NFL, but if it would be anyone, it would be Jones. The Cowboy’s owner has always maintained a larger than life reputation, from the blunt and boisterous statements to the palace of a football stadium that houses America’s Team. Jones is, in many ways, the face of NFL owners, even as he is often cast in the media as the villain, a counterpoint to perceived “good guys” like Robert Kraft (Patriots), Paul Allen (Seahawks) or Arthur Blank (Falcons).
Despite this persistent characterization, Jones remains a hero to many football fans, even those outside the Lone Star State, where football is almost a religion. They see Jones as a maverick fighting the system to make the game better. Jones also has natural allies in the growing number of fans who don’t like what’s happened in the League on Goodell’s watch. There have been several high-profile criminal incidents involving players, what some have called “grossly inconsistent” penalties for different infractions, and the handling – or some would say “mishandling” – of the anthem protests.
At the center of Jones’ beef with Goodell, however, is some very personal business. The League suspended superstar Cowboys running back, Ezekiel Elliott over alleged domestic violence. Losing Elliott puts the Cowboys in a very tough spot, especially with division rival Philadelphia crushing opponents this year. While Jones adamantly denies any connection between his running back’s suspension and his frustration with Goodell, no one believes there is no connection.
Jones, however, insists his concerns are strictly about Goodell’s compensation, and that these concerns are magnified relative to Goodell’s decisions about the player protests. He also admitted to butting heads with compensation committee chairman, Arthur Blank, over Goodell. This rift is apparently more than just business as usual. Blank and Jones did not speak prior to the Falcons-Cowboys game recently.
So, what happens now? Hard to say where this goes next, but it doesn’t appear to be going in a positive direction for a League that could really use some good news.