In a November visit to Back On the Record with Bob Costas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the NFL can’t complain about scrutiny when the NFL welcomes attention.
“We go out of our way to ask people to look at the NFL,” Jones said at that time. “Quit looking away, look at the NFL. We want you to enjoy the nuances of the game. As a matter of fact, on a personal basis, the more transparent, the more you’re behind the scenes, the more you’re involved, to me the more you enjoy the game. I think when we ask the country to be as interested in pro football as you are, then you should expect those kinds of questions.”
Jones was even more candid about his belief that even bad news is good for business in recent comments to Peter King of Football Morning in America.
“Let me tell you a story,” Jones told King. “A few years after I bought the team, I’m out in Los Angeles having lunch with David Hill and Ed Goren of Fox. At that time, there were a lot of negative headlines about the Cowboys. Michael Irvin was in the headlines. People are saying, ‘The owner’s an outlaw!’ And so that day I told them, ‘I’m tightening the lid on this franchise. We’re gonna get control of this team.’
“And David Hill jumped up. He said, “No! Do not touch my ‘Boys! They are television gold! Don’t even think about it!'”
Why would Fox find such a cluster of negativity appealing?
“The foibles, the soap opera, the issues,” Jones said. “They create interest. Add in the Senior Bowl, the Combine, free agency, the draft, training camp, we always got something going. People follow us year ‘round. The owner every now and then gets in the paper. It just adds to the interest, all of it. People love that.”
Jones got in the paper a few times this offseason, for reasons that weren’t good. His long-time P.R. czar left abruptly, and not long thereafter we found out that Rich Dalrymple’s departure apparently related to a voyeurism scandal involving members of the cheerleading squad — an incident that was never investigated by the league, despite a $2.4 million settlement reportedly being paid. Then, Jones was sued by a woman who claims he is her father. Most recently, Jones’s close friend John Schnatter, the former Papa John’s CEO, last month got very candid about his belief that Jones and Washington owner Daniel Snyder wanted Schnatter to help them get Commissioner Roger Goodell fired during the height of the anthem controversy in 2017.
Jones nevertheless believes that all attention is good attention. Not everyone in the NFL ecosystem agrees, obviously. Over the years, we’ve gotten plenty of complaints about the stories we’ve covered or the opinions we’ve articulated from the league office and, at one time or another, most of the teams.
However, the Cowboys have never complained. Once, there was a photo of coach Jason Garrett that captured him with a crazy, wild-eyed look on his face. The Cowboys gently asked us to not use it again.
Other than that, nothing. Not a complaint. Not a word. Not a peep.
Good or bad, Jones embraces all attention being paid to the NFL. And maybe he’s onto something. Despite the various controversies of the past 20 years (as chronicled in Playmakers), the NFL is bigger and better and more financially successful than ever.