Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones in a letter Thursday "requested a special league meeting to discuss commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension negotiations," further "stoking his bitter conflict with the NFL’s leadership," according to Andrew Beaton of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Jones sent the letter addressed to Goodell one day after the league warned him to "drop the issue." Jones "cited a laundry list of problems facing the NFL as justification for his actions." The NFL compensation committee late Thursday "rejected Jones’s request," saying an already-planned meeting on Dec. 13 in Irving, Texas, "will provide 'ample opportunity' for the owners to discuss the issues Jones raised." Beaton notes Jones' letter "provides a window into his thinking amid the high-stakes clash that seems likely to roil the league for the near future." Jones "cited the 'severe threats of retaliation' against him that 'demonstrate the dysfunction of the current process' -- a reference to discussions among some owners to potentially remove him" from the league (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/17). ESPN.com's Archer, Mortensen & Schefter cited sources as saying that next month's meeting will be an "owners-only session that will deal with the impending extension" for Goodell. Jones in his Thursday letter had "requested a special meeting in front of the full ownership group" on Nov. 28 in N.Y. (ESPN.com, 11/16).
PEAK BEHIND THE CURTAIN: ESPN THE MAGAZINE's Wickersham & Van Natta write Jones vs. Goodell is a "battle few saw coming, with the league's membership teetering on an all-out, unprecedented civil war." Goodell and Jones' relationship "seemed strong" for years, but it has "gotten nastier" following Goodell's suspension of Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott. Jones' trust among owners and senior NFL execs now "has all but evaporated." The "turmoil that seems new" actually "began years ago in a shadow war waged inside the cloistered world of NFL offices, owners' suites, private meetings and conference calls, rooted in very different visions, mostly by Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell, about what the NFL's future should be." Almost as soon as Goodell became commissioner in '06, the NFL "plunged into" several crises. But what "troubled Jones more ... was the way Goodell had responded." Jones in recent years "felt that owners were being relegated to the role of mere 'suggesters'" to the league office. Meanwhile, the "frustration of Jones and other owners continued over issues big and small," including declining TV ratings. Most owners expect Goodell's extension to "land in the range" of $40M a year. But if owners "decide to squeeze him too hard, he might walk away." Goodell "knows that there's no clear successor," a "failing on his part and a source of leverage." However, owners "have considered other successors." A "confidant of one owner reached out to gauge whether" NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "would be interested." Silver "immediately said no." Owners have also considered looking to the IOC for "someone with global experience to grow the game -- or even installing the 76-year-old [Paul] Tagliabue for a year while a committee searched for the ideal successor." If Goodell "does re-sign, nobody knows exactly how long he will serve" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 12/4 issue).
YEAR IN REVIEW: In DC, Mark Maske writes the Jones-Goodell power struggle over the past month has "served to further splinter the sport during a tumultuous season in which divisions already were readily apparent." Sources said that they "consider it a long shot that Jones will sue the NFL and other owners over Goodell’s contract and an equally long shot that the league and owners will take meaningful disciplinary steps against Jones." One source described the situation as "one giant bluff versus another giant bluff." The source added, "But it has upset people, and it has united them. You put this log on what’s been a bonfire of a season. When you do that, you give people the right to say, ‘We didn’t need this.'" Maske writes this NFL season has, at various times, "pitted owners against players, owners against the White House, an NFL sponsor against the NFL, and owners against other owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/17).
THE BIG PICTURE: In N.Y., Joe Drape writes under the header, "A Fight Breaks Out In The NFL's Billionaire Boys' Club." Jones "wants to put the squeeze on Goodell’s guaranteed pay, and he has doubled down on his threat to sue the NFL and some of its owners if they, as expected, extend Goodell’s multimillion-dollar contract in the coming weeks." What "makes this little tiff obscene, though, is that this same group of owners, and this same commissioner, are accused of slow-paying -- and in some cases no-paying -- former NFL players from an estimated" $1B concussion settlement agreed to in '15. NFL owners are "not talking about how, of the 1,400 claims filed so far, only 140 have been approved." They also "aren’t eager to talk about how the remaining" 90% of those claims are in the process of "being evaluated, or why many have been sent back to the players and their lawyers to amend before they can be approved." Instead, the owners "talk about their free-floating anxiety, and about how the NFL is under siege." Drape: "But they have no one to blame but themselves. They are the ones who put chronic traumatic encephalopathy into the NFL lexicon alongside special teams and prevent defenses" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/17).
PIECE OF THE PIE: YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson cited sources as saying that Colin Kaepernick's legal camp is "maneuvering for a deeper dive into the relationship between" Jones and Papa John's President & CEO John Schnatter. Jones "owns a stake in 120 Papa John’s pizza stores," and the sources said that Kaepernick’s legal team wants to "know whether the Cowboys owner played a role in motivating Schnatter to take a thinly veiled shot" at Goodell on a Nov. 1 earnings call. During that call, Schnatter "blamed sagging pizza sales on the NFL’s response to protests." If Jones "played any part in shaping that original message, it could put him in a precarious spot with other NFL team owners." Particularly after Wednesday, when Jones was accused of “conduct detrimental to the league" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/16).