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Armour: Frosty Silence Between Owners Illustrates NFL’s Woes

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Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, left, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, right. Photo: Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Anyone know a good mediator or marriage counselor? The NFL could use one.

More than one, probably.

The fissures in the league were on full display Sunday, with Jerry Jones and Arthur Blank standing on opposite sides of the field before the game and neither making a move to meet the other. It was a rare bit of frostiness, Jones acknowledged, one of the few times he hasn’t exchanged pleasantries with a fellow owner.

“That’s rare,” Jones said after his Dallas Cowboys got trounced by Blank’s Atlanta Falcons 27-7. “I’ve had games where I didn’t visit for whatever reasons. But it’s rare.”

Not a big surprise, either, given the boardroom soap opera that’s more must-see TV than the NFL’s games themselves.

The league is famous for keeping squabbles among owners out of the public view, loathe to having anything tarnish or smudge the beloved “shield.” But Jones is not only airing the dirty laundry, he’s hanging it in the front yard for everyone to see.

Jones is livid with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, though the reasons are a matter of debate. Some reports say that he thinks Goodell makes too much money and that his contract should be more incentive based.

That might be the case, but Jones thought enough of the commissioner that he joined the other 31 owners in May in a unanimous vote to give Goodell a contract extension. Only after Goodell suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in August for six games for alleged domestic abuse did Jones start voicing objections.

Now he says the disciplinary system has gone too far, and that owners should have more say in decisions Goodell makes. Funny, Jones was just fine with everything when Goodell was bringing the hammer down on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

But I digress.

Jones also reportedly wants to upend the process on Goodell’s extension. Rather than let the compensation committee work out the details, as it’s done in the past, Jones wants all 32 owners to have a say.

Oh, and if the committee refuses, he’s said he’s going to sue.

Blank heads the compensation committee, and until recently was willing to placate Jones. He made him an ad-hoc member, let him sit in on meetings and air his grievances. But a possible lawsuit among friends was too much, and Blank recently told Jones he was no longer welcome on the compensation committee, ad-hoc member or no.

Which explains the lack of hobnobbing Sunday. Maybe Jones’ black suit and tie, too.

Jones said he didn’t want to add to the palace intrigue, though he passed on giving Goodell a vote of confidence.

“I’m not going to discuss that right now,” he said. “I’m going to give Arthur Blank an attaboy for a great game, the Falcons playing a good game tonight.”

But Jones did give an insight into his thinking, talking about how challenging times are an opportunity for change and improvement.

“Times like these are when you can really assess, look if you can, get better,” Jones said. “I look at the NFL that way. I’ve been here many years and seen times when we need to adjust. Sometimes we do a good job of that. This is one of those times.”

Sure. That’s going to mean they all have to start talking to each other again, though.

By Nancy Armour

This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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