The National Football League has upped the stakes in its feud with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, sending a letter to his lawyer condemning his actions and calling his behavior “detrimental to the league’s best interests.”
First reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, the letter also accuses Jones of actively sabotaging ongoing contract renegotiations with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The league's by-laws allow the commissioner to determine if an owner has acted in a way that's "detrimental" to the league. It could then fine Jones or, in an extremely rare circumstance, force him to give up the team.
The letter was sent to Jones’ lawyer, David Boies, and copied to the rest of the NFL’s owners. The key phrase, “conduct detrimental to the league,” is a sign that sanctions could be in the works for the outspoken owner.
Sources tell the Journal at least a few owners have talked about removing Jones from the NFL.
On Tuesday in an interview on 105.3 The Fan, Jones laughed off reports that he might be removed from the team.
"I have had not one inkling of communication from the league office or any owner that would suggest something that laughable and ridiculous,” he said. “That's about where that is."
The Cowboys owner also reiterated that he will continue to slow the process to extend Goodell’s contract.
“We’ve got all the time in the world to evaluate what we’re doing,” he said.
Jones has said a possible lawsuit would be in an effort to make the negations over Goodell's contract more transparent. He reportedly told the league's compensation committee that legal papers were ready and would be served if the committee did not stop working on Goodell's contract.
Jones has hired Boies, a high-profile attorney who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and recently came under fire over how he handled matters involving one of his clients, Harvey Weinstein.
It's not Jones’ first clash with Goodell this season. He was critical of the commissioner for his handling of the six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, calling Elliott of a victim of overcorrection. Jones has also questioned Goodell's leadership over his handling of player protest during the national anthem.
But with the threat of a lawsuit and hints at league violations, the fight might have reached a tipping point.
The Cowboys have not responded to the latest report.