SBD/November 10, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Claims Significant Changes Since Agreeing To Goodell Extension

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Jones wants Goodell's new contract to include less guaranteed pay and more incentives
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is demanding that "all owners" and not just the members of the NFL compensation committee "vote on the pay package" that is part of Commissioner Roger Goodell's pending contract extension, according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Cowboys General Counsel Jason Cohen sent a letter outlining Jones' stance to the "lawyer representing the committee and to the rest of the league’s owners." The letter, which "repeatedly criticized" Falcons Owner and committee chair Arthur Blank, states that the NFL's fortunes had "significantly changed since May," when the owners voted unanimously to extend Goodell’s contract by five years. Jones, who recently hired attorney David Boies to block Goodell's contract and threatened to sue the league and owners, "did not specify what conditions had changed since May." Through his lawyer, Jones said that he wanted Goodell’s new contract, which would begin in '19, to "include less guaranteed pay and more incentives tied to the league’s financial performance." Jones noted that Goodell had already been paid $200M in the decade since he became commissioner, and that "making a decision" potentially worth more than $200M "should be done carefully." Cohen wrote that Jones "did not want to resort to legal action," but that it "might be necessary to stop the committee’s work" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/10). ESPN.com's Chris Mortensen reported Jones in the letter claims that he "'has discovered a number of very concerning issues' while engaged as a committee member, including that 'the Ownership (sic) and Jerry Jones now understand that they have been unquestionably misled' by Blank and that 'critical facts' have been misrepresented regarding Goodell's contract." The letter alleges that Blank "told owners, including Jones, on numerous occasions that the six-man committee's recommendation would be unanimous." However, sources said that the committee is "not currently unanimous on Goodell's contract, which is in its final stages." Sources said that Jones "repeatedly complained that Goodell retained Blank as compensation committee chairman because of the 'one-sided' contract previously negotiated" (ESPN.com, 11/9).

DEAL COULD BE COMPLETED SOON: NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart on Thursday said he expects a contract extension for Goodell should be “wrapped up soon.” He said talks between Goodell and the committee had been productive and amicable, and he added reports were inaccurate that stated Goodell was furious that owners wanted more incentives in his contract (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). ESPN's Adam Schefter said Goodell's deal getting done "may be the act that springs Mr. Jones into action, because he has done what he can to fight this extension ... in any way, shape and form." Meanwhile, people around the league are wondering, "What is the end game here? What can he do? What can he sue for?” Schefter said, “I don't know that there are any answers to this. All we know is that Jerry Jones has tried to rally support to do what he can to impede this. He has continued to do this throughout the course of the season, and we'll see where it ends up" (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 11/9).

Goodell's standing among owners could be 
permanently hurt after fight with Jones 
NOT A GOOD LOOK
: ESPN's Sarah Spain notes this has "already been an incredibly litigious season for the NFL," and Jones' threats of a lawsuit "is a terrible look for them" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote this is "not a great spot for the NFL to be in." The league 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." NFL owners in the past have always "made sure to avoid any criticism of Goodell," but it now 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 Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott's suspension (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/9). NBC's Savannah Guthrie notes the "bitter feud" could force owners "to choose sides." NBC's Willie Geist said it is a "big family feud in the NFL" ("Today," NBC, 11/10). In Boston, Ron Borges writes the feud between Goodell and Jones is a "sign of a growing problem inside the NFL that could prove to be its undoing if it continues unchecked." This is one of a "mounting number of signs that a league that was built on unity is being torn apart by greed, self-interest, ego, short-term thinking and warring factions." According to several sources, Jones has four other owners "willing to support Goodell’s removal." There are "at least a half dozen more who are noncommittal on an extension without markedly altering the parameters of Goodell’s lucrative contract." Jones’ threat to have legal papers served as early as Friday on the compensation committee’s six members "seems more saber rattling than legitimate" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/10).

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES: THE ATHLETIC's Don Banks wrote by making it a potential legal fight, Jones has "induced many of his fellow owners to take the stance that acquiescing to his demands would be acknowledging that he runs the league and they simply follow his lead." That is "not a perception anyone seems eager to accentuate." A source said, "You can go too far with your fellow owners and it turns them off. This (threatened) lawsuit has had the opposite effect of what Jones wants. I think the owners now rally around the commissioner and they will get him the new deal." Banks noted the "ugly fissure between Jones and Goodell has laid bare another high-profile problem in an NFL season" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/9). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez notes some NFL owners believe if Jones is "given the power to get Roger out," he will install his "own replacement, and he's going to be way too powerful in this league" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/9). But in DC, Sally Jenkins writes Jones' fellow NFL owners "respect him on matters of business," so if he tells them Goodell "must go and the league needs a new commissioner, they at least will listen." Jenkins: "If I’m an NFL owner, I know whom I ultimately side with in a choice between Jones and Goodell. I side with the owner who has multiplied my revenues exponentially with his vision and willingness to upset the cart when no one else had the nerve to, as opposed to the commissioner who has mangled every serious matter he has touched." Jones really has "built and driven the modern NFL’s business, and if he has decided Goodell is a liability, then Goodell is in trouble" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/10).

Elliott's suspension is back on after appeals
court fails to grant an NFLPA injunction
CHANGE OF HEART
: Elliott's suspension was upheld Thursday by the e 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes now that the question of Elliott's status resolved, it is "worth asking why anyone bothered." The question before the courts "was about the process," and the NFLPA and the 32 owners "agreed to give Goodell the power to make that decision and decide what the appropriate punishment should be." The NFLPA had "fair warning on this." But reining in Goodell’s powers "likely would have meant sitting out games, and the union decided that paychecks mattered more than principles, especially because it applied to such a small percentage of players." Meanwhile, Jones is "no less disingenuous." He thought it was "just fine to have Goodell be Disciplinarian-in-Chief when it was some other owner’s player in trouble and some other team’s season in jeopardy." Now that his team is in the spotlight, Jones is "suddenly an advocate for an overhaul of the NFL’s judicial system." Jones "might be right" that the NFL would be "better served with someone besides Goodell as commissioner." However, Jones "wasn’t concerned by any of that in May, when he and the 31 other owners unanimously agreed that Goodell was deserving of an extension" (USA TODAY, 11/10).
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