The man who is being pursued for more than $2 million in legal fees will get his chance to tell his side of the story in the quasi-legal proceeding arising from the effort to make him pay.
Via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said at the Scouting Combine that he will testify on Monday in the appeal hearing arising from the seven-figure assessment imposed by the league office. Hill notes that Jones will testify before Commissioner Roger Goodell, which means that Goodell has not opted to exercise his authority to designate the appeal to someone else.
Goodell should. Even if Goodell can claim (perhaps with a straight face) that he holds no ill will toward Jones for what was, at its core, an effort to overthrow the Commissioner, the appearance of a conflict of interest compels Goodell to step aside.
Jones has strong arguments against the effort supposedly instigated not by Goodell but by other owners to make Jones pay for his disruptive behavior in 2017. The resolution that permits fee-shifting does not expressly apply to threats of litigation, which allows Jones and the Cowboys to claim that the team stopped short of triggering the obligation to compensate the NFL and its other member clubs for the letter-writing campaign that culminated in Jones not following through on a possible plan to sue.
Jones will have a harder time proving that, as to the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, the team did not provide “substantial assistance” to Elliott, given the submission of at least one sworn declaration by Cowboys general counsel Jason Cohen.
Resolution FC-6 gives the Commissioner final and binding power to resolve the amount of legal fees to be paid. The resolution, however, does not expressly grant Goodell the authority to answer the threshold question of whether club behavior triggered a repayment obligation. Goodell presumably will take the position that he has final say in that regard, too.
However it plays out, this entire escapade highlights one of the concerns Jones raised when pushing back against Goodell’s extension: The Commissioner has too much power, and common sense suggests that the power is about to be exercised in a manner that at least in part reflects a desire to extract a pound of flesh from Jones.