The Associated Press has obtained a letter written for the NFL’s compensation committee that was sent to Jerry Jones’ attorney accusing the Dallas Cowboys owner of “conduct detrimental to the league’s best interests” over his objection to a contract extension for commissioner Roger Goodell.
The letter accusing Jones of sabotaging the negotiations was sent to David Boies on Wednesday. Jones hired Boies and threatened to sue the NFL if Goodell’s contract extension was approved by the compensation committee, made up of six team owners. All 32 owners voted unanimously in May to let the committee finalize a deal with Goodell.
The letter, first reported by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, was written by outside counsel for the compensation committee and given to the AP by a person who requested anonymity because it was not intended to be made public.
It’s the latest escalation of a feud between the NFL and one of its most powerful owners. Jones has denied that his objections to the extension are tied to Goodell’s decision to suspend Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games over alleged domestic violence.
Elliott abandoned his legal fight over the suspension on Wednesday. He has five games left to serve and will be able to rejoin the Cowboys for their Dec. 24 home game against the Seattle Seahawks.
“Your client’s antics, whatever their motivation, are damaging the league and reflect conduct detrimental to the league’s best interests,” the letter said.
Jones has said he has issues with compensation in the deal, along with concerns about the escalation of player protests involving the national anthem and how the league has handled them. He also has suggested that owners should revisit the power that the position wields.
The letter confirmed that Jones was removed as a non-voting member of the compensation committee after threatening to sue.
Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, was accused of sharing with all the owners an outdated document related to the negotiations with Goodell.
“Someone who is genuinely concerned ‘that the owners know the truth about the negotiations’ would not deliberately distribute such an outdated document, particularly when he has in his possession drafts that are current and accurately reflect the actual state of negotiations, or threaten to sue the league and its owners if he does not get his way,” the letter said.
Jones has acknowledged being at odds with the compensation committee chairman, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, over the Goodell talks. They didn’t speak on the field before the Falcons’ 27-7 victory over the Cowboys in Atlanta on Sunday.
Blank issued a statement on Monday saying the committee planned to proceed with finalizing the Goodell deal and would keep other owners updated.
A spokesman for Jones didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jones claimed Tuesday on his radio show that “well over half” the owners agree with him in wanting a final vote after the committee is finished negotiating the deal.
“With due respect, we urge Mr. Jones to drop his misguided litigation threats and media campaign to undermine the committee’s mandate,” the letter said. “And we urge Mr. Jones to support the committee’s deliberations, not attempt to sabotage them.”
Despite the discord between Jones and the league, reported discussions that Jones could be ousted or removed as Cowboys owner for his conduct has been ridiculed by Jones but also denied by a handful of owners or high-ranking team executives contacted by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
One prominent owner, who wished to remain anonymous, replied by text: “I have zero awareness of any such conversations,” but added, “The league has options to consider conduct detrimental to the league built into the league constitution.”
Goodell has the authority to administer those penalties under the league constitution in Article VIII, Section 8.13.
Those wide-ranging options available for discipline include fines and suspensions for offending owners, and they do allow for the extreme measure of forcing an owner to sell a franchise. That type of proposed action also must involve the league’s powerful executive committee, which includes Jones among its eight members. It would require three-fourths of the 32 teams to approve such an action.
One anonymous owner who disapproves of Jones’ aggressive public criticism told Mortensen that the Dallas owner “may be ruffling some feathers” but laughed at the suggestion that Goodell and other owners would “even dare” to discuss an option of forcing him to sell the franchise.
“I think we have enough messes as it stands now,” the owner said.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.