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Jerry Jones' maverick ways changed NFL's business model

On Saturday, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones will be under consideration for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From one of the outsiders when he bought the Cowboys in 1989 to one of the most influential owners in all of sports, Jones has had plenty of memorable moments. Throughout the week we will highlight some of the top moments of the Jones era.

The lawsuits

These days Jerry Jones is one of the most respected owners in the NFL. He is involved in most of the big decisions in some fashion, from the most recent collective bargaining agreement to the Rams' move to Los Angeles.

But that wasn’t always the case.

He was a maverick compared to most of the owners who were in the league when Jones purchased the Cowboys.

Jones pushed the NFL's group-think marketing strategy. He didn’t believe he needed help from other teams to make money; nor did he want any. Years before Jones bought the Cowboys, NFL owners created the NFL Trust, which resulted in teams transferring rights to use club marks and logos for commercial properties. From there came a licensing agreement with NFL Properties.

"He’s trying to tear down this league, god damn it!" former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell told Sports Illustrated.

Giants co-owner Wellington Mara said in a New York Times article, "I don't think he has the concept of what it means to be a member of a team. When you do something to enhance yourself at the expense of your team, you hurt the team. It looks like he wants to share other people's revenue, but not his."

In 1995, Jones forged his own marketing deals with Nike and Pepsi, estimated at $40 million, foregoing the revenue sharing by signing deals with Texas Stadium, not the club. Why didn’t the league like that? It had official deals with Reebok and Coca-Cola.

The Cowboys also had deals with Dr Pepper, AT&T and American Express.

"I am well advised and sensitive to playing by the rules. There is no way that I'm in violation of any NFL rules," Jones said in 1995.

His biggest spectacle was at the season opener on Monday Night Football against the Giants. Jones stood on the sideline with Nike chairman Phil Knight and tennis star Monica Seles. The headline on the news release regarding the agreement read, "Cowboys Owner Bucks NFL Again."

The NFL, led by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who is a Hall of Fame finalist with Jones as a contributor this weekend, sued Jones for $300 million. Jones filed a countersuit for $750 million.

Both suits were dropped a year later, but Jones had won. During discovery, Jones was able to show other teams were doing the same stadium sponsorship deals with companies that were not league-wide sponsors.

Alas, the Nike theme park that was planned for Texas Stadium never materialized, but Jones changed the NFL’s business structure.