By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Look, you’ll never confuse me with one of those freaks in the stands who goes berserk at the opportunity to pose for a photograph with Roger Goodell. (What’s up with those people, anyway?)
You’ll never hear me speak or write at length about all the wondrous things Goodell has done for the league in this era of unrivaled profit for the NFL. (An adorable border collie in a delightful three-piece suit could have overseen the league during the same time period and brought about similar results.)
And frankly, I don’t believe a thing the man says. Duplicity is his default setting.
With that being established, I must now get to the point: Jerry Jones probably needs to chill out a little bit in his quest to take down Roger Goodell.
Now, is Ezekiel Elliott the latest NFL player to be pursued relentlessly by the all-powerful league office? No doubt. I can’t tell you from where I sit now whether he’s guilty or innocent of what he’s been accused of, but the league’s top investigator deemed the alleged victim to be not credible while recommending no punishment for the Cowboys’ star running back. Goodell then kept that investigator out of the meeting that determined Elliot’s discipline, a matter that continues to be fought in the courts at this moment.
A raw deal? Seems like it. Worth fighting? Yup.
But great googily moogily, Jones might be losing it.
On Wednesday afternoon, The New York Times reported that Jones is now threatening to sue the league and some fellow owners in order to stonewall a contract extension for Goodell.
It’s a juicy story, no doubt — one that will draw significant attention if it comes to fruition. But in stepping out on this one matter, Jones is only revealing himself as perhaps the grandest hypocrite in a league full of them.
For one, it’s maybe not the best time to hire attorney David Boies, who reportedly settled many of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct cases and may have helped cover them up. It’s actually not ever a good time to hire a lawyer embroiled in such controversy, but hiring that lawyer to help your case when you’re fighting for a player accused of domestic violence is perhaps not the most astute plan.
There is the obvious contrast in reaction to this suspension with his reaction to Tom Brady’s suspension. Then, Jones gleefully said Goodell was “doing an outstanding job” at a time when rival owner Robert Kraft was the aggrieved party.
But there’s much more to the fraudulence of Jones, and the more he speaks, the worse it gets.
Take this quote, for example, which he uttered (presumably with a straight face) this week: “There is zero tolerance, complete zero tolerance by me and by the Cowboys about domestic violence. Complete zero tolerance.”
Complete. Zero. Tolerance.
Get the picture. Very well stated.
Ah, but wait, there is that pesky thing in humans’ brains that allow us to actually remember things that happened. And just two years ago, Jones happily signed Greg Hardy, who had been convicted of committing domestic violence in a bench trial but avoided a conviction on his jury trial because the victim happened to not show up to court.
Mind you, Hardy was prevented from playing for 15 games in the 2014 season while the league attempted to gather evidence. Ultimately the NFL decided upon a four-game suspension on top of that extended absence, to be served at the start of the 2015 season.
Considering his rap sheet, and considering some of the disgusting details that were public, most owners stayed away from Hardy. But not Jones. After all, there were some football games to be won.
Signing Hardy was one thing. What Jones said to justify it was repulsive.
“I have a complete sensitivity toward domestic violence,” Jones said. “It’s been a real, a real lifetime challenge for him. I know that he needs us. He’s our teammate.”
A lifetime challenge … for him?
Whatever Jones meant by that comment, it’s pretty clear that there’s no such thing as “complete zero tolerance” on domestic violence on the Cowboys. And that removes any and all claim to the moral high ground in his current quest.
WEEK 10 NFL PICKS (home team in CAPS)
Seattle (-6) over ARIZONA
JACKSONVILLE (-4) over L.A. Chargers
TENNESSEE (-4.5) over Cincinnati
Pittsburgh (-10) over INDIANAPOLIS
BUFFALO (+3) over New Orleans
WASHINGTON (+1) over Minnesota
Green Bay (+6) over CHICAGO
N.Y. Jets (-2.5) over TAMPA BAY
DETROIT (-13) over Cleveland
L.A. RAMS (-12) over Houston
Dallas (+3) over ATLANTA
SAN FRANCISCO (+3) over N.Y. Giants
New England (-7.5) over DENVER
Miami (+9) over CAROLINA
Last week: 9-3-1
Domestic violence is just one point of double-dealing for Jones lately. He proudly locked arms with his players and took a knee before the anthem to end a weekend of protests, displaying a face that smugly delivered a message of, “Yes, I do believe I just solved the problem myself. You’re welcome, world.”
Jones followed up that show of unity with players by then making it clear that any players who took a knee during the national anthem would not be allowed to play for the Cowboys.
Jones then sent — of all people — “Papa John” to call out the league for its handling of the protests that take place during the national anthem.
The pizza man. True story
Occasionally, fact is stranger than fiction.
There’s one more area that should be covered, too. When Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported that Jones led a conference call of owners who were upset with the job Goodell is doing, one of the reasons included “issues regarding the relocation of teams to Los Angeles.”
For one thing, each NFL owner (from the teams that didn’t relocate) received a cool $53 million for the relocation of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders. Not bad.
Jones himself managed to make out even better, profiting many more millions of dollars off the Raiders’ forthcoming move to Las Vegas because of his ownership of a hospitality company that owns suites in new sports stadiums.
Surely, if Jones were to take issue with anything Goodell has done, relocation would be the last item on the list.
In any event, it’s unclear how successful Jones will be. Considering the powers the owners have over the commissioner, and considering the owners kept Goodell through Ray Rice (and, to a lesser extent, Josh Brown) so that they could remove him when it’s more convenient to their needs, it’s possible he wins. Yet with a massively important CBA negotiation on the horizon just three years from now, owners interested in the bottom line ahead of everything else (read: all of them) might want to keep in charge the same man who sat in the commissioner’s chair when the league absolutely destroyed the players’ union in the last round of CBA negotiating.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman — a very connected NFL reporter — wrote that Goodell is currently in the “weakest position of his 11-plus-year tenure” but nevertheless stated a belief that “it’s probable Goodell still has the support of a majority of owners.”
In threatening to sue his fellow owners and the league over a domestic violence suspension, Jones is walking a dangerous line. He’s not accustomed to losing (that is, except on the football field, where his Cowboys haven’t even made it to a conference championship game since 1995 and are just 3-10 in the playoffs over the past 21 years), but he may be setting himself up for a spectacular flop on a national stage.
And in the meantime, the more he postures, the more he reveals that this whole push against the commissioner is entirely self-serving.