Feud Grows Between NFL, Cowboys' Jerry Jones Over Goodell

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not backing down in his very public spat with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal Thursday, Jones said the NFL "has undergone unprecedented upheaval in the last two years, including a significant decline in television ratings, increased advertiser discontent, high-profile litigation concerning player suspensions, and decreasing ticket sales."

Jones' request to hold a special meeting with the NFL's compensation committee before the group's Dec. 13 meeting was denied.

Jones was responding to a letter sent to his attorneys Wednesday from the NFL accusing the Dallas Cowboys owner of "conduct detrimental to the league's best interests." 

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, which suggests Jones sabotaged the negotiations and was sent to David Boies on Wednesday. Jones hired Boies and threatened to sue the NFL if Goodell's contract extension was approved by the compensation committee, made up of six owners. All 32 owners voted unanimously in May to let the committee finalize a deal with Goodell.

The letter, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was written by outside counsel for the compensation committee and given to the AP by a person who requested anonymity because it was not intended to be made public.

It's the latest escalation of a feud between the NFL and one of its most powerful owners. Jones has denied that his objections to the extension are tied to Goodell's decision to suspend star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games over alleged domestic violence.

Elliott abandoned his legal fight over the suspension Wednesday. He has five games left to serve.

"Your client's antics, whatever their motivation, are damaging the league and reflect conduct detrimental to the league's best interests," the letter said.

Jones has said he has issues with compensation in the deal, along with concerns about the escalation of player protests involving the national anthem and how the league has handled them. He also has suggested that owners should revisit the power that the position wields.

The letter confirmed that Jones was removed as a non-voting member of the compensation committee after threatening to sue.

Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, was accused of sharing with all the owners an outdated document related to the negotiations with Goodell.

"Someone who is genuinely concerned 'that the owners know the truth about the negotiations' would not deliberately distribute such an outdated document, particularly when he has in his possession drafts that are current and accurately reflect the actual state of negotiations, or threaten to sue the league and its owners if he does not get his way," the letter said.

Jones has acknowledged being at odds with the compensation committee chairman, Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, over the Goodell talks. They didn't speak on the field before the Falcons' 27-7 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.

Blank issued a statement Monday saying the committee planned to proceed with finalizing the Goodell deal and would keep other owners updated.

Jones claimed Tuesday on his radio show that "well over half" the owners agree with him in wanting a final vote after the committee is finished negotiating the deal.

"With due respect, we urge Mr. Jones to drop his misguided litigation threats and media campaign to undermine the committee's mandate," the letter said. "And we urge Mr. Jones to support the committee's deliberations, not attempt to sabotage them."

Multiple reports have said some league owners were discussing options to strip Jones of the franchise. While it's likely that will not happen, University of North Texas at Dallas law professor Michael Maslanka said the NFL does have that option.

"The commissioner, if you're found guilty, has the authority to fine you up to $500,000. If the commissioner doesn't believe that is sufficient, he can refer Jerry Jones to the executive committee. In that case the executive committee can, under the by-laws, take away his contract. It's not going to happen, because it is a silly spat," Maslanka said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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