Jerry Jones may be the most recognizable owner in the NFL. He prowls the sidelines. He publicly challenges referees. He’s such a big presence that the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium is known as Jerry World.
But even by his standards, this is new territory: He is waging something close to war against Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the fellow owners who support him.
On Tuesday, Jones was in the unusual position of denying published reports that the owners are considering whether to strip him of his beloved Cowboys.
He also denied reports that the group of owners negotiating Goodell’s contract renewal had sent Jones a cease-and-desist warning.
“I’ve had not one, not one, inkling of communication from the league office or any owner that would suggest something that laughable and ridiculous, and that’s about where that is,” Jones told the Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan.
“If somebody is asserting that, they are not knowledgeable about how things work in the NFL,” he said.
Jones has had a lot to do with how things work in the NFL.
Besides winning three Super Bowls and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he helped Las Vegas and Los Angeles land NFL teams, and he was instrumental in securing the league’s lucrative TV rights deal.
But he has clashed with Goodell as the owners discuss whether to renew the commissioner’s contract. Goodell made $31 million in 2015, the most recent year with publicly available figures.
Jones has questioned Goodell’s leadership and his handling of players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem.
In October, Jones threatened to bench any player who “disrespects the flag.” Goodell has said players should stand for the Anthem, but he has also said the players aren’t trying to be disrespectful to the American flag, and that they’re calling attention to important national issues.
Jones is also upset over Goodell’s treatment of his star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended six games earlier this season for domestic violence allegations.
Jones said the ruling against Elliott has more to do with the scope of Goodell’s authority than with whether Elliott is guilty. Jones said Goodell’s “swing of judgment” in the “saga” over how the NFL should handle domestic violence has been “unbelievable” and that Elliott has been treated unfairly.
But his threat to sue the NFL to block Goodell’s contract renewal may have been a step too far.
A league source told CNNMoney on Monday that the deal would be “done shortly,” and a second source close to the league said a contract extension was “more likely than not.”
Goodell has also faced criticism for declining TV ratings and growing concerns about brain damage to players. But owners may be wary of replacing him so soon before the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players expires, in 2020.
Jones said Tuesday that all owners should approve any deal, and said “well over half” of owners agree with him. But all 32 agreed in May to give the compensation committee, made up of six owners, the power to decide whether to extend Goodell’s contract, according to a league spokesman.
At one point, Jones was a non-voting honorary member of the committee, but was dismissed after he made his threat to sue.
Jones’ lawyer did not return a request for comment. An NFL spokesman declined to discuss Jones on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
This is far from the first time Jones has caused tension in the league.
Shortly after buying the team, in 1989, he fired legendary coach Tom Landry, who had helped turn the Cowboys into “America’s Team,” with two Super Bowl wins and three appearances.
And in 2014, he was at the center of a scandal. A former exotic dancer sued Jones, accusing him of sexual assault. She also said the Dallas Cowboys knew about and covered up the incident. An attorney for the team called the allegations “completely false.” The suit was eventually dismissed.
On the radio call on Tuesday, Jones denied having a replacement for commissioner in mind.
He and Goodell didn’t always have a rocky relationship.
In 2014, Jones praised him, saying, “Roger has done an amazing job for the game.”
He’s had good reason to be happy: Since Goodell took over in 2006, the value of the Cowboys has quadrupled to $4.8 billion, according to Forbes. They’re the most valuable team in sports.