There seems to be only one likely winner from Jerry Jones’s decision to take on Roger Goodell and the NFL. And it isn’t the Dallas Cowboys owner.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that several NFL team owners have given Jones, the 75-year-old Californian oil billionaire who bought the Cowboys in February 1989, a “cease and desist warning” as he seeks to block a contract extension for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The warning to Jones, which was issued by the six owners on the N.F.L. compensation committee after the group held a conference call Monday, comes less than two weeks after he threatened to sue the league and the owners on the committee who have been working for months on a new contract for Goodell,” Ken Belson wrote.
In particular, Jones appears to have irritated Arthur Blank, the Atlanta Falcons owner who chairs the compensation committee that decides the terms of Goodell’s contract. Jones’s threat to sue the other six members of the committee has already seen him thrown out of the group, while Blank responded on Monday with a statement saying, “The committee is continuing its work towards finalizing a contract extension with the commissioner.” “Rather than impede Goodell’s contract extension, Jones has all but ensured it’s going to get done,” Nancy Armour wrote in USA Today on Monday.
Jones’s power-play could have devastating implications. A Pro Football Talk piece published on Sunday evening mentioned a so-called “nuclear option” that NFL owners opposed to Jones could take should they find him “Guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football.” (Section 8.13 of the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws). The first option in that case would be a $500,000 fine, but if Goodell deems Jones’s conduct deserving of further punishment then the Cowboys franchise could be “cancelled,” according to league rules, essentially forcing Jones to sell his baby.
That seems highly unlikely, not least because as much as Jones may be annoying his fellow owners and Goodell, the NFL needs the Cowboys to remain a financial behemoth. Forbes valued the team at $4.8 billion in October 2017, $1.1 billion million more than the New England Patriots, the NFL’s second most-valuable franchise. The Cowboys made $840 million in revenue in the past year. Blank’s Falcons took in $367 million while the Oakland Raiders, 32nd and last in the league for revenue, made $321 million.
It’s those disparities that make Jones the NFL’s most powerful owner, and mean the Cowboys aren’t going anywhere in the short, medium or long-term future.
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But if Jones really wanted to test out how scared the league is of losing the world’s most-valuable sports franchise, couldn’t he employ his own “nuclear” tactic. Newsweek has explored the possibility for him by sending an email to the Canadian Football League exploring their receptiveness to welcoming in the Cowboys. The CFL has not responded to a request for comment.
Sure, there are potential roadbumps. The CFL salary cap for the 2017 season, for instance, is set at $5,150,000 which is a little less than the NFL’s mark of $167 million.
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But we feel confident that if both parties are willing, a deal can be done here. It’s not like the CFL is struggling—a June 2016 ESPN piece noted a reported $40 million TSN deal running until 2021 that has helped boost the financial health of the league. "We don't have $1 billion teams, and that means we're on our own a bit more; we have to be more entrepreneurial and innovative," Bob Young, owner of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, told ESPN at the time. "We really are nine different businesses."
Well, the CFL could have a near $5 billion business if it’s willing to just demolish its salary cap and most other rules that have made it savvy and successful. As for the Cowboys? Jones hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1996, and he would surely fancy his chances against the Edmonton Eskimos. And is it really any more geographically ridiculous to call the Cowboys a Canadian franchise than make them play in the NFC East? Not really.
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