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Former Papa John’s CEO says Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder pushed him to get Roger Goodell fired in 2017

Matt Johnson
Roger Goodell, Jerry Jones
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder have never had the best relationship with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Now, former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter alleges both prominent NFL owners wanted him to get the commissioner fired in 2017.

There is a notable history between Jones and Goodell, especially years ago. ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr and Seth Wickersham detailed the issues in 2017, highlighting the clash between two of the NFL’s most powerful and prominent figures.

The feelings between the two men also weren’t hidden. Jones, who fought against his fellow owners signing Goodell to a contract extension, told the NFL commissioner in a conference call “I’m gonna come after you with everything I have.”

Now, Schnatter is detailing his side of the story that seemingly was unknown for years. In an interview with Jason Whitlock, Schnatter said that Jones and Snyder encouraged him to try and get Goodell fired.

“Snyder and Jones hate Goodell. 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.’”

Former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter on Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder wanting him to get Roger Goodell fired

The frustration, based on Schnatter’s telling of the events, is Snyder and Jones didn’t like how Goodell handled players protesting during the national anthem. Schnatter later followed through on the request with public criticism, blasting NFL leadership for not putting a stop to players kneeling during the national anthem. At the time, per Pro Football Talk, several figures in the NFL believed Jones encouraged Schnatter’s comments.

Despite the hopes of Snyder and Jones, Goodell remained in power and he received a contract extension. He still holds immense support from a majority of team owners, especially as of late. There are also no plans to replace him with NFL revenue skyrocketing and the commissioner overseeing the sport as it continues to grow with new sources of revenue coming in each year.

Related: Roger Goodell reportedly negotiating contract extension

Roger Goodell won power struggle with Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder

NFL: NFL Draft
Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While Jones might still not have a good relationship with the NFL commissioner, he likely knows a change in leadership isn’t coming. The league briefly lost some support due to its new support for players peacefully protesting during the national anthem and speaking out on social issues, NFL TV ratings spiked throughout the 2021 season.

Schnatter later resigned from the Papa John’s board after Forbes reported on his usage of the N-word in a conference call.

As for Snyder, his future in the NFL is far more uncertain. Currently being investigated by the league for sexual harassment with an FTC investigation into financial misconduct and under scrutiny from a Congressional inquiry, he is on shaky ground.

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Given the NFL has the authority to remove an owner for conduct detrimental to the league’s interest, with enough support from fellow owners, the possibility of a forced sale exists. Considering the Denver Broncos sale will be for more than $4 billion, there could even be a financial incentive for the NFL to move on if it finds grounds to do so.