Forget the Russian probe. Jerry Jones versus the NFL – and Commissioner Roger Goodell – is the most interesting legal matter in the country.
If you think the previous statement is a bit facetious, think again. Regardless of the outcome of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, it won’t have as great an impact on the average American as the outcome of the Jones-NFL feud. While Mueller may put a few greedy incompetents behind bars, and precipitate the resignation of a few more, like it or not Donald Trump will be our president until the 2020 election. Goodell only wishes he had Trump’s security.
Jones is allegedly upset because the NFL’s compensation committee, consisting of six owners handpicked by Goodell, is putting the finishing touches on a 5-year contract extension that will pay the commissioner $200 million, the same amount he’s earned over the past five years. Back in May, the owners unanimously agreed to allow the committee to negotiate an extension. Jones claims circumstances have changed since then which justifies revisiting the prior vote.
In a letter to his fellow owners, Jones said the changes include sliding TV ratings, the national anthem controversy, the never-ending concussion issue, and Goodell’s ham-handed handling of player discipline. It’s the latter issue that some see behind Jones’ campaign against Goodell.
The commissioner suspended Cowboys’ star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games for allegedly abusing his former girlfriend. Elliott and the NFLPA have relentlessly fought the suspension in court, thus far to no avail. Jones is steaming because without Elliott, the Cowboys’ playoff chances will be severely diminished.
Even though this snit may be motivated by retribution, Jones has raised some legitimate issues. When the owners unanimously authorized the compensation committee to negotiate Goodell’s contract, they were told by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the committee chair, no offer would be made unless the members were unanimous on the terms. That may not be the case. Furthermore, according to Jones, consultants to the committee called Goodell’s current contract “…the most one-sided deal they have ever seen.”
The squabble between Jones and Goodell illustrates a growing chasm between a block of owners and the commissioner, which has spilled out publicly. Those owners view Goodell as an employee who acts like an owner. Their position is similar to Texans owner Bob McNair’s comment that “we can’t have inmates running the prison,” in reference to the players’ ongoing national anthem protests. While league revenues have grown exponentially during Goodell’s 11 years as commissioner, many owners feel the same would have been true regardless of who inhabited League headquarters. They may be right.
If anyone has a right to brag about growing the league’s revenues, it’s Jones. His vision has more to do with increasing the revenue pie for players and owners than everything Goodell and the other owners combined have done. Most owners will admit as much, despite Jones’ braggadocious ways.
Given Jones’ track record, choosing sides in this fight is a no-brainer. I’m backing Jones, despite the long odds against his success.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a Professor in and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.