The NFL announced on Wednesday that the controversy over legal fees to be reimbursed by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.” Although Jones apparently paid at least 80 cents on the dollar, if not more, of the roughly $2.5 million in legal fees the league sought to impose on him, the fact that he had a chance to enjoy even a slight effort to save face is a lot more than most, if not all, players achieve in the Court of Big Shield.
Not long after Goodell succeeded Paul Tagliabue as Commissioner in 2006, word quickly spread that the new regime wasn’t doing deals like the prior regime did regarding players starting at suspensions. Goodell quickly developed the reputation of “enforcer,” fighting tooth and nail instead of working to find middle ground on matters of player discipline.
In the Cowboys case, Goodell had the same kind of judge/jury/executioner power that players have complained about for years. Goodell could have found that Jones must pay 100 cents on the dollar, and Jones would have had no recourse.
But Jones got a chance to settle. To resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties. To create the impression of a win-win, when the approach with players is always the zero-sum game of win-lose.
Maybe Goodell and the Finance Committee (which also presided over the hearing, a curious twist that previously hadn’t been reported or disclosed) hoped to avoid Jones taking the full-blown “L” and then spouting off to the media that the outcome confirms his concerns about the power of the league office run amok. Regardless, the perception of a double standard has become a slice of reality in this case.
Goodell could have secured full victory against Jones, but Goodell chose not to. Why didn’t he similarly opt to, for example, reduce the Ezekiel Elliott suspension by a game, from six to five? Ultimately, it’s further proof that it pays to be one of the 32 people who pay the salary of the person making these decisions.