In theory, there are ways that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could officially challenge the NFL’s suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott, if he wants. Unofficially, Jones has a far more effective way of wreaking a little havoc for 345 Park Avenue. And he’s currently doing it.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jones has made himself into, essentially, an ad hoc member of the Compensation Committee. Though not one of the three owners who officially joined the three existing owners in May for the purposes of negotiating Commissioner Roger Goodell’s extension, committee chairman Arthur Blank has allowed Jones to have a role and a voice in the process of hammering out Goodell’s proposed new deal.
It’s possible Blank regrets it. Per the source, Jones has been very aggressive about the matter, a concern that traces back to the owners-only meeting in March, during which Jones raised before his peers a variety of issues regarding the way the league does business. (In addition to his issues with the process for negotiating the Commissioner’s deal, Jones also expressed concerns about the league’s approach to marijuana, and regarding the league’s system for investigating player misconduct.)
Jones had been aggressive about Goodell’s contract even before Jones had specific reason to be reportedly “furious” about the suspension of Elliott. Now, with Elliott suspended and NFL Director of Investigations Kia Roberts reportedly testifying that she did not find Elliott’s accuser to be credible, Jones has even more reason to stick to his guns.
While Jones’ unofficially role on the Compensation Committee had not been officially announced, he hinted at it when cryptically declining to comment recently on whether he supports a five-year extension for Goodell.
“That’s obviously an internal, very internal thing and I would not comment about it,” Jones said on August 22. “And I don’t want that to be interpreted. I just will not comment about it. I’m one of the people that are basically involved in how that is being negotiated. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment about it.”
In hindsight, it’s perhaps convenient that someone leaked the news of a Goodell extension being close to finalized a week after after the Elliott suspension was announced, and nearly two weeks about the Elliott appeal landed in litigation and another controversy for the league office. Perhaps Goodell and whoever is negotiating on his behalf wanted to get the deal done and in place (or close to it) before Jerry decides that he wants to delay the package, diminish its value, or derail it entirely.
Jones also could pursue legal options against the NFL for the Elliott suspension, even though the Cowboys haven’t been directly punished. Such efforts likely would have a remote chance of prevailing, assuming that the league’s constitution and bylaws have been crafted in a way that makes it hard for any one team to upset the proverbial apple cart. However, it would be significant and stunning to see Jones essentially go rogue against his business partners.
Maybe he’ll use the threat of that simply to get his way when it comes to whatever terms are, or aren’t, being offered to Goodell.