By BARRY WILNER
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to sue the NFL over a proposed contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell, a dispute apparently sparked by star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Jones told the six owners on the compensation committee he had hired high-profile attorney David Boies and was prepared to sue if the group voted to extend Goodell’s deal, the person told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one has been authorized to reveal details.
Jones also has expressed disapproval with the structure and compensation in the contract extension, another person familiar with the proposed lawsuit says. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason.
The actions of Jones were first reported by The New York Times.
All 32 owners voted in May to extend Goodell’s contract and authorized the compensation committee to work out the details. Goodell suspended Elliott in August after a yearlong NFL investigation. Prosecutors in Ohio declined to pursue the domestic violence case.
Jones, who is not on the compensation committee but is one of the most powerful owners in the league, has expressed frustration over the NFL’s pursuit of criminal matters with its own investigators.
Asked on his radio show last week if he wanted Goodell to remain commissioner, Jones avoided a direct answer and said Elliott was a “victim of an overcorrection” because of the NFL’s mishandling of former Baltimore running back Ray Rice’s domestic case involving his then-fiancee.
Goodell’s initial suspension of two games was sharply criticized because of a video showing Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer from an elevator. Another video later surfaced of Rice punching Palmer in the face, and he was suspended indefinitely. The suspension was lifted by an arbitrator, but Rice never signed with another team.
“I can show you many positive things that this commissioner, Roger, has done, is doing and I can show you some of the things that he wants to take back,” Jones said on his radio show Oct. 31.
“This is a very example of it. I’m sure he’d like to take back his initial Ray Rice stance and a few others. He’s in the process of having tried to correct that and in doing so, Zeke is a victim of an overcorrection.”
The NFL hired former New York prosecutor Lisa Friel to help shape the stronger policy on domestic violence that came out of the Rice incident. The updated policy included the league’s ability to investigate cases on its own regardless of law enforcement’s involvement.
Prosecutors in Elliott’s case cited conflicting evidence when deciding not to pursue the case. The NFL’s probe continued for a year after that decision. Jones said his running back has been treated unfairly, and Elliott has denied the allegations of his ex-girlfriend under oath.
“I am very troubled by the swings that we’ve had,” Jones said on his radio program. “His swing of judgment has been unbelievable from the Ray Rice thing all the way up to one or two games, all the way to the six-game suspension when you’ve truly got a debate. In our legal system it has to be stronger than that for somebody who has done it.”
Goodell’s decision to suspend Elliott prompted weeks of twists and turns in courtrooms from Texas to Louisiana to New York. A three-judge panel in New York has a hearing today to consider another injunction to stop the suspension. Elliott, on his third legal reprieve, has played all eight games for the Cowboys.
“We make the commissioner in the NFL the most powerful person that I know of as to the organization and it’s constituency, so it’s a big deal not only when we’re hiring, but when we extend him,” Jones said after a game in Washington two weekends ago. “So there’s a lot of consideration to it, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody.”