Jerry Jones, NFL feud looms over annual Cowboys Thanksgiving game

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ feud with other NFL owners over Commissioner Roger Goodell’s new contract looms over the franchise’s nationally-televised Thanksgiving Day tilt with the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

Jones is set to appear at AT&T Stadium during the Thanksgiving game, which is traditionally one of the most-watched NFL contests of the regular season, just days after he said he would drop his threat to sue the NFL to block Goodell’s contract extension. The declaration marked a thaw in frigid relations between the two groups after Jones accused the NFL’s six-owner compensation committee of misleading other owners about Goodel’s proposed compensation.

However, the business magnate warned this week that his effort to change the way the NFL does business isn’t over.

“I want accountability,” Jones told USA Today on Tuesday. “This is not about replacing Roger. … It is about accountability of the commissioner to all of the ownership.”

Jones is a particularly powerful voice within the NFL community. Under his watch, the Cowboys have risen in value from $140 million when he purchased the franchise in 1989 to a league-best $4.8 billion this year, according to Forbes.

He is widely credited with helping to broker the Rams’ relocation to a massive new facility in Los Angeles before the 2016 NFL season, and famously backed Goodell despite his widely-panned handling of the “Deflategate” scandal involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Goodell has earned more than $200 million as commissioner since 2006. Under his leadership, the league is expected to earn a record $14 billion in revenue in 2017.

However, Jones became one of Goodell’s most outspoken critics this season after Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys’ star running back, drew a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence. Jones says that Goodell’s handling of the NFL’s response declining television ratings, national anthem protests and various legal issues, rather than Elliott’s suspension, were the motivation behind his threat to sue the league.

He argues that all 32 NFL owners, not just the six members of the compensation committee, should review the final terms of Goodell’s deal. Jones has also said that Goodell’s pay should be tied directly to the league’s financial performance and his ability to address key challenges.

In a letter to Atlanta Falcons owner and compensation committee chairman Arthur Blank, which was obtained by the New York Times, Jones said the NFL’s sponsors believe the league has “credibility issues.”

“The image of the commissioner’s office is not positive and cannot be rewarded at this time,” Jones wrote.

Jones’ actions generated rumors that some of the NFL’s owners were discussing the possibility of revoking his ownership rights for conduct detrimental to the league. Jones later dismissed that report as “laughable.”

His expected appearance at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving will mark his re-emergence on the national stage for the first time since withdrawing his legal threat. Last year, the Cowboys’ holiday win over the Washington Redskins drew 35.1 million viewers, the largest total for a regular-season game in more than two decades.

The Cowboys have lost their last two games, both of which Elliott has missed due to suspension. Once considered a Super Bowl contender, Dallas enters Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record and will be without Elliott until late December.

Despite the team’s recent struggles, Jones told ESPN last Sunday that he doesn’t believe his public battle with the league office has impacted the Cowboys’ on-field performance.

"I don't in any way have a second thought about that, not at all," Jones said. "I really do want to be inspirational to our players, my players. And I want them to know that I'll do everything I can to help the Dallas Cowboys and help the NFL, and they should benefit from that."