When Jerry Jones testifies under oath at hearing on Monday in Palm Springs, Fla. Monday, it will be a continuation of a nasty battle between the Dallas Cowboys owner and the NFL, particularly commissioner Roger Goodell, that began soon after he celebrated the career achievement of being inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last August.
Less than two weeks after his Hall of Fame induction, Goodell suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six-game for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. This was after he allegedly told Jones that Elliott would receive no punishment.
Jones considered it an unforgivable breach of trust.
He also began fighting the NFL’s compensation’s committee’s plan to give Goodell a contract extension, even threatening to sue.
Now the league is asking him to pay more than $2 million back in legal fees, stemming from the battle with Elliott in federal court and the Goodell contract.
The NFL is citing a rule that has been on the books since 1977 says an owner must reimburse the league legal fees if he brings litigation against other owners.
Jones said he is looking forward to testifying at a hearing Monday before Goodell and other owners in contesting paying reimbursement fees to the NFL.
“A hearing before your commissioner is like a corporate and you separate the wheat from the chaff and you get right into the facts as they are and I welcome that,” Jones said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Looking forward to my time with him regarding both the issues of how we were involved or not involved in the Ezekiel Elliott issue as well as the issue of what we did or didn’t do relative to his contract. Those will be the subject areas but the key thing is that we facts and important to talk about the issue. You get right to completely address the facts and I know he wants to know that and I want him to know what the facts are.
“Just by its very nature it’s to give information and get information and it has the discipline that you have of a courtroom setting with the accuracy of a courtroom setting and … Again there’s no arm waving. Just get right to exactly what happened in both instances and we’ll both be better for it.”
For Jones, it's not about the money, but about the principle of things.
He threatened to sue the league to block Goodell's contract extension. He never filed suit.
And regarding Elliott's case, Jones and the Cowboys provided a letter of support. They were not involved in the case.
Per sources, Elliott's lawyers have been asked to come to the hearing on Monday where they will provide documents showing that Jones provided no financial assistance to the case.
But again, Jones is looking forward to his time court. He said there will be no angst and no frustration.
He said the battle with the NFL didn’t sour or spoil the high of making the Hall of Fame.
He said its part of doing business in the NFL and his focus has always been on what’s best for the NFL.
That was at the root of what got him elected to the Hall of Fame after coming to the league as a rebel and outsider.
It’s been 29 years since he bought the Cowboys in 1989 and he said his mission is the same and that was the foundation of his battles with the commissioner in 2017.
“If you look back at the 29 years apart from the competition and the challenges you have trying to win on the field, it was marked throughout that 29 years of challenges and pursuit of doing everything I would to make the league better to work with, to be hopefully to lead, lead by example, suggest ideas that might be controversial, take issue if you will, every step of the way to make the Cowboys better and in doing so make the league better and so last year was very much the same thing that probably I was recognized for getting in the Hall of Fame,” Jones said. “It’s just a part of it. Unlike a player when you’re in the Hall of Fame you’re playing days are over, but my playing days weren’t over getting in the Hall of Fame and hopefully some of the best days are ahead and last year was one of those examples of how you can work. You don’t always get an agreement. We’ve had disagreement from not only fellow owners but certainly you can have a disagreement with league office and commissioner and you can work through that and hopefully we can make it a better league having done it. That was my experience in the first 29 years.”
The battles in 2017 were never about Goodell but rather the power of the commissioner. So he doesn’t view it negatively and it’s why he believes his testimony on Monday is a positive.
“I’m just excited that we’ve got a chance to do things whether it be as the behavioral policies and the way that our league is basically addressing player behavior, whether it be the process that we govern the league, all of those can be made better and that’s what last year was about,” Jones said. “That’s what this year is about. I don’t view it negatively at all.”