Seventeen NFL owners held a conference call Thursday to discuss the possible halting of commissioner Roger Goodell’s impending contract extension.
According to ESPN, the owners who participated in Thursday’s conference call are divided as to whether or not Goodell’s performance as commissioner warrants a renewal of his contract.
The group, reportedly led by the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, are unhappy with the way Goodell has handled the recent protests of players’ during the national anthem. They are also dissatisfied with the handling of the Rams’ and Chargers’ recent relocations to Los Angeles as well as the Ray Rice domestic violence case.
“You don’t get to have as many messes over the years like Roger had and survive it,” said one owner who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The owners, despite their unhappiness, may have a hard time firing Goodell. The NFL requires two-thirds of the ownership (24 votes) to oust Goodell. Goodell has been commissioner since 2006, when he succeeded Paul Tagliabue. His contract extension was supposed to have been completed in September and still has not been finalized.
Goodell current contract expires in 2019. According to the Sports Business Journal, Goodell’s extension will be for five years and could pay him more than $30 million a year in salary and bonuses.
“Maybe (Atlanta Falcons owner) Arthur (Blank, head of the compensation committee) and that committee think they’re on track,” said another league source about Goodell’s contract negotiations. “But they have a lot more resistance they then counted on—and maybe they don’t know how the resistance is growing as we speak.”
Blank expressed optimism in September that the deal will get done and denied Jones, an ad hoc advisor to the compensation committee, was holding anything up.
“We’re working within the structure of what the ownership wanted us to do. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of time, it’s a little bit of a complexity,” Blank said. It’s an important contract for the league, it’s an important contract for the commissioner. Jerry’s been positive, as have all the owners on the committee. It takes time to work through some issues, questions and things of that nature. But we’re in a good place.”
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who made headlines with his “inmates running the prison comment” earlier in the week, took a shot at Goodell’s leadership in his statement to clarify his comments.
“I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners and how they have been making significant strategic decisions affecting our league without adequate input from ownership over the past few years,” McNair said.
McNair was heavily criticized for his “inmates running the prison” comments. At the same time, he expressed a growing sentiment among NFL owners without specifically mentioning Goodell by name.
“That was our recurring theme, that’s there no leadership,” said another NFL executive. “Everyone (in the league office) is trying to win the latest news cycle and there’s no long-term vision. It’s just, ‘How do we minimize the bad headlines, maximize the revenue, and move on to the next day.’ And there’s an increasing frustration to that approach.”
“We just don’t have enough problem solvers,” another NFL owner said. “We gotta get it right or we’re going to let it burn. Last time I felt like this was before the 1993 CBA settlement. That was just depressing and Paul Tagliabue and (the late NFLPA executive director) Gene (Upshaw) stepped in and saved it in a spectacular way. We don’t have that feeling right now.”
ESPN The Magazine reported last month that Goodell’s contract extension is being stalled by Jones, who also criticized Goodell for the six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“If not for Jerry,” one owner said in regards to the contract extension. “This deal would be done.”
Blank was not one of the owners on Thursday’s conference call wasn’t aware of it. Three other owners did not find about the call until Saturday. The teams represented on the conference call have not been specified.