FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says his objection to a contract extension for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is not because of star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence.
Jones said on his radio show Friday he wants all 32 owners to have a chance to approve the deal being negotiated between Goodell and the compensation committee that includes six owners. Jones is not on the committee.
The NFL has said owners already voted unanimously to extend Goodell’s contract and authorize the committee to work out the deal. Jones said circumstances have changed since that May vote, including the escalation of the protests over social injustice that have involved the national anthem.
Jones also said "behavioural policies" have been an issue since May. Goodell suspended Elliott in August.
Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, didn’t dispute that he had threatened to sue the NFL if Goodell’s contract was extended.
He suggested he was at odds with the compensation committee chairman, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Jones said he disagrees with Blank’s assertion that the compensation committee can complete the deal without another vote of all owners.
Jones spoke a day after a federal appeals court on Thursday denied bid by Elliott to keep his six-game ban on hold, making him ineligible to play against Atlanta on Sunday.
"I really fervently disagree that we shouldn’t have him on the playing field," Jones said. "But a lot of people are trying to tie it in frankly with the issue regarding my stance as to the chairman and renewing the commissioner. That’s really not right."
The 75-year-old Jones said the compensation committee could appease him by agreeing to let the remaining owners review and approve the final contract with Goodell.
"I think just since the period of time that we first addressed extending Roger, I think we’ve had several material adverse conditions happen," Jones said. "We should basically honour those conditions, such things as the anthem, such things as behavioural policies.
"It’s a well-known, an accepted principle that in a negotiation if you have material consequences occur, that you revisit the situation. Certainly we’ve got things that we need to discuss that weren’t on the table last spring."
Goodell suspended Elliott following a yearlong investigation by the league after prosecutors in Ohio declined to pursue the domestic violence case, citing conflicting evidence.
During his NFL appeal of the punishment, Elliott denied under oath that he had any physical altercations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time. The NFL said there were three incidents over five days.
Jones said his relationship with Goodell, and issues related to his compensation, are deeper than his recent concern over the league’s handling of Elliott’s case.
"I’ve been dealing with this commissioner for almost 28 years, as an employee of the NFL," Jones said. "Zeke’s been involved here a year, a year and a half. The policy that we have that has impacted Zeke is more of my issue with the commissioner, more so than Zeke’s particular circumstance."
The anthem issue flared after President Donald Trump criticized kneeling players, and again when Jones declared he would bench any player he felt was disrespecting the flag. The NFL hasn’t changed a guideline that encourages but does not require players to stand during the anthem.
"This is simply about making sure that all clubs have input into not only what the commissioner, his extension, but also in future years, his decisions," Jones said. "We’ve given him a lot of power. I think we need the checks and balances of ownership having to actually be in a position to not just suggest but approve of his decisions."