Jerry Jones isn’t going down without a fight.
While an NFL spokesman said Thursday that commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension is expected to be finalized soon, Jones is “on the brink of filing a lawsuit” if the extension is “completed without final review or approval from the league’s 32 teams,” according to ESPN.
Jones’ attorney reportedly sent a letter to the league’s counsel Wednesday night claiming that owners are being “misled” by Falcons owner and compensation committee chairman Arthur Blank regarding contract negotiations. Jones, the Cowboys owner who was recently axed as a non-voting ad-hoc member of the committee, alleged Blank previously told owners the group’s recommendation would be unanimous. Now, the letter claims Blank has walked back his promise that there would be “unanimity” before the extension was finished.
Jones is part of a group of NFL bosses who want Goodell’s next deal to be incentive-laden, making his compensation more performance-based than a flat, guaranteed figure, ESPN reported, a development that someone close to Goodell said has made him “furious.”
“He feels as if the owners have made a lot of money and he should be compensated accordingly,” the source told ESPN. “The incentives thing really angers him.”
Goodell has made more than $200 million since he was elected commissioner in 2006 as part of “the most one-sided deal ever,” Jones told fellow owners last month. The owners very much enjoy their deal with the players, who do not have guaranteed contracts, and would like to ensure Goodell earns his money, too.
This is Plan B for Jones, who is on the warpath to oust Goodell from his role. Jones, who most recently hired Harvey Weinstein lawyer David Boies to aid his case against Goodell, has been lobbying his fellow billionaires for months about the commissioner’s upcoming contract — which has seemed an inevitability but still not finalized. With Boies’ help, Jones is trying to move the other owners toward his side; Jones needs 24 owners to approve of Goodell’s firing.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, however, said Thursday the league’s “expectation is this will be wrapped up soon, but we can’t project an actual date.”
The extension would carry through 2024. Lockhart said the league is aware of Jones’ potential lawsuit, but that “neither the compensation committee or the league has been made aware of a lawsuit being filed.”
As for reports that Jones and other owners might be balking at the structure and compensation in the new contract, Lockhart noted: “I am saying the reporting about potential holdouts around particular issues has not been accurate. I don’t know where it is coming from.”
Jones has long maintained the commissioner is overpaid, and the two have clashed over Goodell’s handling of the national anthem protests. Goodell has not taken a hard-line stance, saying he would like the players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but has not mandated it. Jones, meanwhile, has said some players taking a knee has hurt the league, and he has threatened his Cowboys onto their feet with the penalty of not playing if they protest.
Adding to the Goodell-Jones collision has been the never-ending Ezekiel Elliott saga, in which the commissioner suspended the star Dallas running back for six games under the NFL’s conduct umbrella for a domestic violence case in which charges were never pressed.
— Additional reporting by the Associated Press