When Commissioner Roger Goodell wasn’t running a 40-yard dash in the hallway at 345 Park Avenue (his official time was 5.41 seconds, according to the most important person in the process — the one who starts and stops the clock), Goodell was flying to Palm Beach for a hearing in the effort to recover more than $2 million in legal fees from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, the session lasted for an hour. The hearing happened in Palm Beach because Goodell and multiple owners will be engaged in meetings in preparation for the NFL’s annual meetings, which start on March 25 in Orlando.
On Monday, NFL Media reported that the appeal included an affidavit and wire transfers from one of Ezekiel Elliott‘s lawyers aimed at proving Jones didn’t pay for any of Elliott’s legal fees. Cowboys general counsel Jason Cohen also filed a declaration (an unsworn affidavit) with testimony that supported Elliott’s effort to block his six-game suspension pending a final court ruling on whether the suspension should be overturned; via NFL Media, Elliott’s legal team downplayed the testimony as not vital to the litigation.
But that’s not the standard. Under Resolution FC-6, the obligation to reimburse the NFL and/or other clubs for legal fees arises when a team provides “substantial assistance” to a third party in litigation against the league. As noted by Bell, the league believes that Jones and the Cowboys crossed the line from “observer” to helper. And it’s for Goodell, the person Jones essentially wanted to oust from his job, to decide whether whatever the Cowboys did constituted substantial assistance.
Goodell also will decide whether threatening litigation over Goodell’s contract extension is the same as “initiating” litigation. Anyone who has any understanding of the legal system knows that the two concepts are vastly different. But Goodell will be making the decision — and as his past rulings have shown, he doesn’t really have any understanding of the legal system.
Maybe Goodell will try to come off as merciful by splitting the baby and making Jones pay only the bill for the Elliott litigation. But since Goodell already has decided to whack Jones for both, a retreat on appeal will make him look wishy-washy. More importantly, it will open him up to gripes and complaints from owners who want to see Jones fully punished for his antics last year.