February 27, 2018 at 12:52 PM
INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has requested a hearing before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to contest the league’s effort to force him to reimburse more than $2 million in legal fees incurred by the owners’ compensation committee and the league, according to multiple people familiar with the NFL’s inner workings.
It is not clear yet when the hearing will take place, said those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. NFL rules give Goodell the final say on the matter, and the hearing will be conducted and decided by him or a person designated by him.
The NFL declined to comment on Jones’s request for a hearing that amounts to an appeal of the penalty.
The league’s order arises from a 1997 resolution that requires any owner who takes legal action against the league to cover both sides’ legal costs. The resolution has been utilized previously, said one person familiar with the issue, who declined to provide specifics about past instances in which owners have been required to reimburse legal expenses of the NFL or other teams.
In this case, a large number of owners supported the order for Jones to repay the legal expenses, according to multiple people within the league. One of those people estimated that as many as 29 of the 32 teams are in favor of the league’s action against Jones. The matter was reviewed by owners on the league’s finance committee.
The compensation committee told Jones last year that he was guilty of conduct detrimental to the league for his effort to block the five-year contract extension that the committee negotiated with Goodell. Jones hired attorney David Boies and threatened to sue to block Goodell’s extension, although he later backed off that threat and didn’t file a lawsuit. Goodell’s extension, which runs through 2024 and could pay him as much as about $40 million per year, was completed and went into effect.
The ordered repayment of legal fees is tied to Jones’s actions on Goodell’s contract extension and the Cowboys’ support for the failed legal challenge by running back Ezekiel Elliott of his six-game suspension last season under the personal conduct policy. Jones was critical of the league’s approach in that case and said that Elliott should not have been suspended. The NFL Players Association challenged the suspension in federal court and delayed its implementation, but Elliott and the union dropped their challenge after the league secured the right to enforce the suspension.
Cowboys executive Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones’s son, declined to comment on the matter during a break Tuesday in the competition committee’s meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I’ll let Jerry address that at the appropriate time,” he said. “But I don’t really have anything to say about that right now.”