We often hear about how important it is to the NFL to “protect the shield,” and make sure the league shines as a bastion of integrity for the entire country. As we know all too well here in St. Louis, “NFL” and “integrity” should never be connected in a positive manner.
As we saw a couple of more times last week, one of the biggest problems the league has in protecting its shield is the owner of one of its most popular franchises and a new Hall of Famer, Jerry Jones. Jones has consistently brought law breaking players into his organization, and has consistently gotten the league involved with needless litigation. He says things that are clearly not true, but believes with all his heart they are. But, since he’s the most powerful person in the league, he’s still viewed as some sort of an icon, a brilliant deal maker who has advanced the league’s interests.
As the league continues a downward trajectory, let’s take a look at some of what Jerry has done…
Allowed Josh Brent on the sideline: In December of 2012, Cowboys defensive tackle Brent was the driver in a fatal accident that killed teammate and St. Louis native Jerry Brown. The accident happened on December 8, the Saturday night before a Cowboys game. Brent was in jail the following day, but the next week Jones thought it would be appropriate to have Brent…charged with intoxication manslaughter of Brown…on the sidelines. The next week, after negative reaction to his being on the sideline, Jones and the Cowboys banned Brent from the sidelines. Brent would eventually serve a five-month sentence for Brown’s death.
Signed Greg Hardy: Hardy was convicted in a domestic violence case while a member of the Carolina Panthers, but that was overturned on appeal because the victim refused to cooperate. The police report…which Jones and the NFL had access to…was chilling. As Deadspin reported, Hardy’s girlfriend Nicole Holder told police she “tried to get up (from bed), he pushed me, then I started fighting back, he threw me into the bathroom, I hit the back of the shower wall and fell into the bathtub where he pulled me out.”
She said he dragged her out by her hair and picked her up again before throwing her onto the futon, which had several weapons—what she described as “guns from … the Army or … I mean like from video games”—on it. She landed on top of the rifles and then fell onto the floor. In her telling, he stood above her and strangled her with both his hands. She would later tell Detective Faye Strother that she thought she was going to die.”
With that knowledge, Jones and the Cowboys signed him. During Hardy’s season with the Cowboys, Jones gushed “He’s one of the real leaders on this and he earns it. That’s the kind of thing that inspires.” That’s the kind of person Jones looks to as a ‘leader.”
The same year the Cowboys signed Hardy, they drafted Nebraska’s Randy Gregory in the second round. Gregory would have been a first round pick had he not failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine. In 2016, he was suspended three different times for separate positive drug tests. He’s suspended this year, but the Cowboys say they want him back.
Signed Pac Man: Adam “Pac Man” Jones had had at least seven run ins with police during his NFL career, and been suspended for a year, when Jones traded for him on April 23, 2008. In his year with the Cowboys, he’s arrested in an alcohol related incident WHILE he was with a Cowboys employed body guard.
In 2007, Jones signed Tank Johnson, who had been released by the Bears. Johnson had been involved with a gun incident, and had left six guns out in plain view at his Chicago home, including two automatic firearms, with his kids there alone.
Super Bowl seats not there: Jones found himself at the center of a controversy when 400 fans that went to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV at AT&T (then Cowboys) Stadium found out they didn’t have seats. Jones had told the NFL that the stadium would be completely ready, but it wasn’t. While most of the fans were pacified, several filed suit and finally settled the case in May of this year.
One attorney told Forbes magazine that he estimated the NFL spent $20 million on legal fees defending the case.
Said Kroenke could move team if he wanted: Back in January of 2015, Jones told the New York Times about Stan Kroenke moving the Rams to Los Angeles. He said “as it would turn out now, apart from the league saying no, you can move there. “Keep in mind that teams have moved without the permission of the league. They just have.” The NFL had to walk back the statement, which, as it turned out, was true. It was Jones that wanted the Rams to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles, and he made it happen. Of course, St. Louis has filed suit against the NFL and every owner, including Jones.
Jones was outspoken in his support of relocations of the Rams and Chargers to Los Angeles and the Raiders to Las Vegas. Those moves literally disenfranchised up to 10.9 million people. So, while Jones got his number two TV market in Los Angeles, the viewership in that market has decreased, and many of the fans in the sixth (Oakland), 21st(St. Louis) and 28th (San Diego) markets have completely cut ties with the NFL. Both San Diego and Oakland are contemplating suits against the league.
Concussions: The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been diagnosed in 110 of 111 former NFL players whose brains were donated for research. That’s 99% of the players that donated their brain. But Jones told The Washington Post that “we don’t have that knowledge and background, and scientifically, so there’s no way in the world to say you have a relationship relative to anything here.” He added that “there’s no research. There’s no data. … We’re not disagreeing. We’re just basically saying the same thing. We’re doing a lot more. It’s the kind of thing that you want to work … to prevent injury.”
Pushed by The Post on whether he believes there is a link between CTE and playing football, Jones responded, “No, that’s absurd. There’s no data that in any way creates a knowledge. There’s no way that you could have made a comment that there is an association and some type of assertion. In most things, you have to back it up by studies. And in this particular case, we all know how medicine is. Medicine is evolving. I grew up being told that aspirin was not good. I’m told that one a day is good for you. … I’m saying that changed over the years as we’ve had more research and knowledge.”
The NFL has already settled one concussion lawsuit with its players, but now that CTE is part of the landscape and players are committing suicide, apparently as a result of CTE, more litigation is clearly on the horizon. Aaron Hernandez’ daughter is likely just the tip of the iceberg for those.
The Ezekiel Elliott case: Jones is the NFL’s shadow commissioner. He’s the power behind Roger Goodell’s throne. Yet he’s not happy with the league’s handing of one of his own players, St. Louisan Ezekiel Elliott. From an owner that signed Hardy and Jones comes this quote, “I’m very familiar with all of the facts and the details of this case. Very familiar. Zeke did not get treated fairly here.”
Did Elliott not get treated fairly, or is Jones protecting his star running back’s criminal activity? Would Jones be as invested if it were the fourth string running back? It’s pretty disingenuous to think Jones would question the decisions of a guy he employs (Goodell) if it wasn’t his own NFL leading rusher that was being suspended. Elliott will likely be back in court in New York this week, trying to get another injunction that will keep him on the field.
Told players they won’t play if they stand for anthem: CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora reported that Cowboys players weren’t even talking about the kneeling controversy in the NFL until their owner said if they kneel, they won’t play. Since Jones’ comments, the league has been threatened with lawsuits and grievances, and apparently what was a non-issue for the club has become one. Just what the NFL needs, another lawsuit.
Suspensions: The Dallas Morning News reported that since 2014, the Cowboys have had 13 PED, substance-abuse or alcohol-related suspensions, including nine in the last 24 months.
If the biggest problems for the league are indeed dwindling TV ratings, a perception of lawlessness, suspensions of star players, and concussions, Jones seems to be right in the middle of it. If the NFL REALLY wanted to protect the shield, they’d find a way to muzzle Jones. But you can’t do that to the guy that runs the league, so the NFL’s trajectory will remain the same.