NFL players protesting the national anthem has undoubtedly caused serious damage to the popularity of the National Football League and has also hurt the reputation of league Commissioner Roger Goodell.
In fact, the New York Post reported Sunday that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has had enough of Goodell and is leading a charge among fellow owners to derail a pending contract extension for the commissioner.
Jones has been outspoken about how he would have handled the anthem protests differently, such as threatening to bench players who behave disrespectfully. He likely has an ax to grind with Goodell because of a highly disputed six-game suspension of star Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott handed down by Goodell for player misconduct in an alleged domestic violence incident. No legal charges were ever filed against Elliott.
The Post cited an ESPN report about a Jones-led conference call Thursday involving 16 other NFL owners to discuss Goodell’s future with the league.
Aside from the obvious problem of allowing player protests during the anthem to continue unpunished while other minor infractions are routinely hammered, the owners reportedly have also taken issue with Goodell’s mishandling of recent team relocations to the Los Angeles area, as well as with domestic violence committed by players.
“You don’t get to have this many messes over the years like Roger has had and survive it,” one unnamed owner stated during the call.
It is unclear if Jones has rallied enough support among league owners to get rid of Goodell — he would need the consensus of 24 owners to terminate Goodell’s contract. It’s possible that the commissioner’s salary could be reduced or he could be forced to make broad changes to his staff and league leadership.
“We just don’t have enough problem solvers. We gotta get it right or we’re just going to let it burn,” another unnamed owner stated. “Last time I felt like this was before the 1993 (collective bargaining agreement) settlement. That was just depressing, and Paul Tagliabue and Gene (Upshaw) stepped up and saved it in a spectacular way. We don’t have that feeling right now.”
Still another unnamed league executive familiar with the call stated, “That was our recurring theme, that there’s no leadership. Everyone (in the league office) is trying to win the latest news cycle, and there’s no long-term vision. It’s just, ‘How can we minimize the bad headlines, maximize the revenue and move on to the next day?’ And there’s an increasing frustration to that approach.”
Jones himself declined to comment on the reports regarding the conference call.
It has also been reported that Jones has been holding up an expected contract extension for Goodell for at least a month, with one owner telling ESPN in September, “If not for Jerry, this deal would be done.”
“Maybe Arthur (Blank, Atlanta Falcons owner and head of the compensation committee) and that committee think they’re on track,” an owner of Goodell’s extension said. “But they have a lot more resistance than they counted on — and maybe they don’t know how the resistance is growing as we speak.”
However, CBS Sports reported that Goodell’s contract extension is already a “done deal,” for all intents and purposes, and Jones likely lacks the necessary support to oust the besieged commissioner, though there is support for other changes to the league leadership team under Goodell.
“That (ESPN) article leaves the inference that 17 want Roger out but I know most on the call may want some changes at the league staff but NOT Roger,” stated one unidentified ownership source. “Meaning they want Roger to stay but want some guys out and want more talented people brought in.”
That CBS piece reported that due to the ongoing controversies and poor public relations at the moment, an announcement about Goodell’s contract extension has been placed on hold, likely until the end of the season.
Obviously we will have to wait and see what happens as the drama continues to unfold, but one thing is certain — Roger Goodell may not be quite as entrenched in his current position as NFL commissioner as he may have once thought, and it his his own failures to adequately lead the league that have placed him in that predicament.
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