Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told owners on the NFL’s compensation committee, the body charged with negotiating a contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell, that he has hired high-profile attorney David Boies and intends to file a lawsuit if the committee proceeds with its plans to complete Goodell’s extension.
Jones’s threat was delivered during a conference call of compensation committee members last week, according to multiple people familiar with the committee’s deliberations.
“He mentioned that he’d hired David Boies,” said one of the people with knowledge of the situation. “He did talk about a lawsuit. He didn’t specify a date.”
Jones’s threat of legal action is not expected to stop the committee from completing its contract extension with Goodell, the person said.
“He’s going to be extended,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the possibility of legal action. “Whether it’s in December or in March or whenever it is, he’s going to be extended.”
Jones’s threat was first reported by the New York Times. The Cowboys and the NFL declined to comment.
Boies’s firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, was recently fired by the Times after the paper discovered the firm’s role in what it called a spy operation, through which embattled media mogul Harvey Weinstein tried to kill an article on allegations of serial sexual harassment and assault. Boies represented the NFL during its 2011 lockout and earlier achieved fame for arguing Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court following the 2000 presidential election.
Jones is said to be working to halt Goodell’s contract extension, or at least change the terms of it, because of his displeasure over the NFL’s six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the sport’s personal conduct policy.
Jones’s associates say his opposition to Goodell’s extension is not about the Elliott case but is about his previously held beliefs that Goodell’s contract should be incentive-laden. They say they believe that Jones might be receptive to Goodell staying on as commissioner if the contract is structured as Jones believes it should be and if all the owners are part of the deliberations, not only those on the compensation committee.
The owners are scheduled to meet in December in Dallas. The annual league meeting is held in March. Goodell’s extension could be completed at one of those meetings. The five-year extension would run through 2024.
“It just hasn’t gotten done, just for no [other] reason than that people have been busy,” said another individual involved in the decision to extend Goodell. “It’s not like there’s been a gun to the head, but you want it to get done.”
The committee is chaired by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Jones had been serving as an unofficial member of the committee, participating in its deliberations. He was said to be advocating for an incentive-based deal for Goodell’s next contract. His participation on the committee apparently ended with his threat of litigation.
Owners voted, 32-0, in May to authorize the compensation committee to complete an extension with Goodell. No further vote of the owners is needed under league rules for the deal with Goodell to be completed, according to people familiar with the league’s inner workings.
Speaking about Goodell’s contract following the Cowboys’ Oct. 29 victory over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, Jones said: “I wouldn’t at all comment regarding that status. 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.”
That day, Jones also made his ongoing displeasure with the Elliott case clear.
“Zeke is critical to our [team],” Jones said. “As you can see, he’s a valued member — member is almost trite to say. We need him. But what is important is that he gets a fair shake. Zeke has in no way, by any standard in this country, done anything wrong. He’s done nothing wrong. We, the league, have tried to say that he’s done something that we disagree with. We all don’t agree with that. And so I want him to get a fair shot. And he deserves that. … We don’t have the system in place for this. And we’re trying to make one up in a few short months. And it’s got too many ways to not be fair to a person like Zeke.”
The NFL has been barred all season by court rulings from enforcing Elliott’s suspension. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is scheduled to consider the NFL Players Association’s appeal of a ruling by a federal judge rejecting the union’s request for a preliminary injunction for Elliott.
Blank said at the conclusion of the owners’ meeting last month in New York that Goodell’s extension was on course to be completed.
“It’s not ‘done done,’” Blank said then. “But we’re making good progress that we would expect to make.”
Kent Babb contributed to this report.
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