When a number of NFL owners met in New York City several weeks ago at the behest of the players and commissioner Roger Goodell, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not find his name on the invite list for the first meeting.
And according to a lengthy ESPN report, citing its magazine, that interviewed more than two dozen owners, players, and executives, that was just fine with him.
The Cowboys’ owner has been an outspoken critic of players who have kneeled for the anthem. When pressed several weeks ago in a radio interview, Jones firmly declared he would bench any of his players who protested. When asked what defines a protest, he said: “You’ll know it when you see it.”
While Jones was in New York to discuss the issues facing the league with his fellow owners, namely the national anthem protests, Goodell believed Jones’ presence would be counter-productive.
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According to the ESPN Magazine report, some owners left the Yankees game early, seeking a good night's sleep before the meeting with the players the next morning. Goodell had personally decided which owners would attend, and he had not invited Jones. The commissioner, sources say, wanted to prevent the players-owners meeting from devolving into an argument about whether a player should be benched if he kneels —an argument that was more likely to break out if Jones attended.
Jones’ concern with the image of the league stems from declining ratings and that advertisers might not longer want to do business with a league brand that was thought to be nearly bullet proof several years ago.
After the Cowboys’ 40-3 road win over the 49ers last Sunday he reiterated his fears. “There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests,” he told reporters.
In a second meeting though, one without any players, the hardline owners who opposed anthem protests got involved. In that sit-down, Jones reportedly stood up and said “I am the ranking owner here”, according to the report.
At first, some in the room admired Jones’ pure bravado, the mix of folksy politician and visionary salesman he has perfected. But he was angry, according to the report. He said the owners had to take the business impact seriously, as the league was threatened by a polarizing issue it couldn’t contain or control. To some in the room, it was clear Jones was trying to build momentum for an anthem mandate resolution, and in the words of one owner, “he brought up a lot of fair points.”
Despite Jones’ tremendous influence with the league and his fellow owners, things didn’t go his way.
(Patriots owner Robert) Kraft, who is close friends with Trump, politely rebuked the hardliners, saying that he supported the league’s marketing proposal and predicted the issue would work itself out over time.