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Former Papa John’s CEO: Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder wanted me to get Roger Goodell fired

Cowboys exec Stephen Jones joins Mike Florio to discuss the Jones family's hands-on ownership of the team, where Dallas sits heading into the 2022 NFL season, the booming wide receiver market and more.

In 2017, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to take out Commissioner Roger Goodell. It was obvious as it was happening. Nearly five years later, a prominent businessmen Jones tried to recruit for the effort has added some more details to the story.

Appearing last month for an interview with Jason Whitlock, via, former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter claimed that Jones and Washington owner Dan Snyder wanted Schnatter to try to get Goodell fired in 2017, specifically for the manner in which Goodell was handing the national anthem controversy. (Jones also was upset about the suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott.)

“Snyder and Jones hate Goodell,” Schnatter said. “I said, ‘No, this is not my job to fire your Commissioner. He works for you.’ Remember, Goodell is a coward, and he is incompetent. And he’s just lucky. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, Indra Nooyi [former CEO] with PepsiCo, and Dan Snyder all called me -- several other folks -- about Goodell’s conduct and the way he was handling this. Jones and Dan Snyder . . . wanted Goodell fired. This is like . . . the first of November, end of October. They called and said, ‘You need to take this guy out. You’re the number one sponsor of the league, as far as notoriety and acceptance and association. Everybody loves you, they love Peyton [Manning, a Papa John’s franchisee and sponsor]. We hate Goodell.’”

Schnatter also claimed during the interview that Snyder called Goodell a “drunk, and yet we pay him $50 million a year.”

“I said, ‘No. This is not my job to fire your Commissioner,’” Schnatter said. “‘He works for you. I just sell pizzas. I have a family of small businesses that, you know, probably 35 percent of our spend’s NFL, it’s down 20 percent. This behavior of not addressing the issue to the owners’ and players’ satisfaction is causing me and my franchisees a lot of problem. And this is going on now for two seasons. . . . I had a free shot from two owners to go after Goodell personally. I didn’t go after him in a vicious, venomous way. I just said, ‘Hey, grow up, be a leader, and fix the problem so my small business owners stop taking it on the chin.’”

Schnatter did indeed do that, on November 1, 2017. In a conference call regarding the company’s poor earnings for the third quarter of the year, Schnatter said of Goodell, “Good or bad, leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership. This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

As reported at the time, some believed Jones put Schnatter up to it. Indeed he did, as Schnatter’s more recent comments make perfectly clear.

Two days after Schnatter criticized Goodell in 2017, Jones had a chance to distance himself from the remarks. Instead, Jones said this: “I am a joint owner of the businesses of 120 Papa John’s stores here in Texas. And John Schnatter is one of the great Americans.”

Things got ugly for Jones. Some owners talked about initiating the procedure to force Jones to sell the Cowboys. Eventually, Jones backed off. Goodell got a contract extension that Jones had been trying to block. Schnatter stepped down as CEO of Papa John’s. Jones eventually paid more than $2 million for legal fees incurred as a result of litigation threats Jones had made. Life in the NFL moved on.

The incident earned a chapter in Playmakers. That chapter would have been a lot spicier if it had included the more recent comments from Schnatter. Given the NFL’s current scrutiny of Snyder, Schnatter’s comments may provide the foundation for a chapter in Playmakers 2.