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Out here in the sunlight, the NFL is basking in the public’s transfixed attention weeks after its season ended because Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson were traded, while Aaron Rodgers stayed in Green Bay.
The league loves this. It relishes being center stage and takes secret delight that it remains at the epicenter of American sports, even as college basketball insists it owns March and Major League Baseball begs for attention like a cranky baby while management and players hammer out a labor deal.
But the men who run NFL teams apparently aren’t as enthralled with the white hot spotlight when it doesn’t suit them.
Take Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for example.
He loves attention. He is the only NFL owner who speaks to reporters after just about every game because, well, it’s his team and he likes to drive the narrative about the Cowboys, win or lose.
Except earlier this week, Jones’ lawyers were scrambling to court to seal a lawsuit filed by a 25-year-old woman so as to limit the attention on Jones.
Jones’ lawyers were indeed successful in getting the suit sealed but not before hundreds of Texas lawyers randomly received a copy of it late Monday, and then the Dallas Morning News got hold of the suit soon afterward.
And what is this suit about? Well, confidentiality.
What a coincidence.
Alexandra Davis, a 25-year-old woman, is suing Jones, alleging he paid her mother hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 1996 confidentiality agreement meant to conceal that he is Davis’ biological father and she is the product of an affair.
Davis is asking a court to find that she isn’t legally bound by the confidentiality agreement between Jones and her mother that was signed when she was a baby. Davis has also asked to be recognized as Jones’ daughter.
Davis doesn’t want to be sued or lose her financial trusts. She is also seeking declaration from the court that such settlement agreements should be “unenforceable” in Texas.
The suit states Davis “has lived her life fatherless and in secret and in fear that if she should tell anyone who her father was, she and her mother would lose financial support, or worse.”
The suit also says, “Plaintiff has had to endure the endless public profiles of her father and siblings while forced to remain secret to everyone, including her closest confidants.”
This woman, by the way, is successful. She works as an aide to U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R) of Texas.
On the same day the Jones lawsuit came to light despite Jones’ best efforts, the lawyers representing former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores complained an NFL owner is trying to remove their discrimination lawsuit allegations from public view.
In a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the lawyer representing Flores asks Goodell to deny a request by the attorneys for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to force the issue into “secret arbitration,” according to a statement by Flores.
“Commissioner Goodell now has a choice to make,” the Flores statement reads. “Will he allow this case and future race discrimination claims to play out in a transparent and public legal process, or continue along the same unacceptable path?”
So the Dolphins want the lawsuit to play out “behind closed doors,” as the Flores legal team asserts while Flores wants the claims to be heard in open court.
All of this is, of course, a bad look for Jones, and Ross, and the NFL if Goodell allows arbitration to mask the legal proceedings from remaining transparent.
But none of this is different than what has happened in the past.
The NFL conducted an investigation into the Washington Redskins/Football Team/Commanders toxic workplace environment allegations but didn’t release the full findings of that investigation.
When the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform requested all the information, the league answered with a letter stating Washington is blocking access to 109,000 documents from the investigation.
Washington club owner Dan Snyder had an agreement with the league that required both sides to agree to release documents and other information.
That essentially handed Snyder the power to hide information he didn’t want to become public.
So on the one hand, the NFL continues to be the richest and most-watched sports league in the country. And on the other hand, some of its owners often don’t want anyone to see what’s going on at all.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero