With the NFL and its players still seeking a resolution to controversies involving players’ protests during the national anthem and the recent comments of Houston Texans owner Robert McNair, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday that the “challenging times” for the league should lead it to “look for accountability” among its leaders and seek ways to improve itself.
“The occasion that causes you to be asking the question, causes us to be meeting in New York, causes us to be discussing this, the very issues that are there can end up being a very positive engine for change and improvement,” Jones said following the Cowboys’ victory over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. “And we do need to improve. There’s no question about that. We need to improve throughout, every constituency in the NFL. … This could be a great occasion for us to look for accountability, get it and move forward in a very productive way. … My best things that I’ve been involved in were born of angst and were born of issues.”
Players and the league were working Sunday to schedule their next face-to-face meeting. Tentative plans for a meeting Monday in Washington were put aside after a group of players said Saturday that it wanted to schedule a meeting Monday in Philadelphia involving McNair, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Colin Kaepernick, the unsigned quarterback who began the players’ protest movement last season while with the San Francisco 49ers. It did not appear that players and NFL representatives would meet Monday but they were attempting to arrange a meeting for as soon as possible.
McNair has apologized for reportedly saying during an owners’ meeting earlier this month in New York that the NFL “can’t have the inmates running the prison.” The comment came during a meeting in which owners did not enact a requirement for players to stand during the anthem. McNair’s comment angered players, although he said in one written statement that he actually was referring to the relationship between owners and the league office.
“This is actually a time where everybody — every constituency — can remember it’s about the fans,” Jones said Sunday. “That’s what it’s about. This a great time for us to get in and improve. It’s challenging times. But we can use these challenging times. We can use these times for assessment, for evaluation of what we are as a league and what we’re doing. We obviously can do a lot of things better. For me, it’s maybe as great a time as I’ve seen for us to come together, everybody do their part.”
Jones said he speaks to McNair “a lot” but declined to specify whether he’d spoken to McNair in recent days about the controversy. ESPN reported earlier Sunday that Jones and 16 other owners had a conference call this week in which they discussed Goodell’s pending five-year contract extension, suggesting that Jones is attempting to hold up that extension.
“I wouldn’t get into the nuances,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t get into the content. I wouldn’t get into who. Let me just say this: It is absolutely business as usual for people — for owners, for owners with league staff — for them to be in communication. As a matter of fact, the very meeting in New York invited, as to compensation for the commissioner, invited input from all of the owners. And so this was a part of leaving there and continuing to do your homework.”
Jones has served as an unofficial member of the owners’ compensation committee that is dealing with the extension that would have Goodell’s contract running through 2024. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the chairman of that committee, said as the owners meeting ended this month that Goodell’s extension was not “done-done” but remained on course toward being completed. Blank declined to comment Sunday when asked about the issue by The MMQB.
There have been reports that Jones long has favored Goodell’s compensation being tied to incentives to a greater degree. The more recent reports of his resistance to the extension come with the league and the NFL Players Association at odds in court over Goodell’s six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the personal conduct policy.
Jones declined to say Sunday whether he believes that owners should reconsider awarding an extension to Goodell.
“I wouldn’t at all comment regarding that status,” he said. “As you know, I’m … very much involved in the dialogue that goes on with the contract. I’m not on the committee per se. But we make the commissioner in the NFL the most powerful person that I know of as to the organization and his constituency. So it’s a big deal when we not only hire him but when we extend him. That has a lot of consideration to it. It shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
Jones previously has said that he would bench any Cowboys player who protests during the anthem. He declined to revisit that issue in detail Sunday.
“I’m just proud of our team,” Jones said. “I’ve pretty much given my thoughts there.”
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