Cowboys Jerry: 'Honey-Grab' Vs. 'Money-Grab'

IRVING - The climate is ripe. The ground is fertile. If ever someone wanted to file a $1-mil lawsuit against a sports-world power broker like Jerry Jones, this would be the right time. And so it is done. And here's what it means:

When it comes to audio, video and photography that puts him in awkward, embarrassing and controversial pickles, this ain't Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' first rodeo. The pictures of Jones in titillating poses with what seem to be a couple of "professional women'' at a Dallas hotel bar are now the centerpiece of a sexual assault lawsuit against Jones filed by Jana Weckerly, identified as the woman who took the pictures, who is seeking $1 million in damages.

Jones' lawyers are responding to the lawsuit by mentioning words like "baseless'' and "extortion,'' adding, "We intend to vigorously contest this complaint and expect it will be shown for what it is - a money grab."

That may very well be true. The photos are from 2009. They came to light because a loon claiming to be "the son of God'' wished to use them against Jones. Weckerly says she was sexually assaulted but somehow cannot remember the exact month of what would figure to be a memorable incident.

But all those issues, and even the eventual settling or dismissal of the suit, are secondary. There is a bigger picture here -- a picture much clearer than the salacious ones snapped in the summer of 2009 -- and it is about the vulnerability of Jones and his ilk in this ripe climate and fertile ground for the destruction of those in power in sports.

Big-time college sports leadership is a hypocritical mess. The NBA's Los Angeles Clippers are just now escaping a decades-long reign of a racist owner. the Ray Rice domestic-assault videoThe Atlanta Hawks now have their own racist issues in ownership and even in the scouting department. And most tied to the Jones case, the Ray Rice domestic-assault video puts NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the crosshairs, as he seems either guilty of incompetence or a coverup. This is an emotionally-charged time, a time to doubt leadership, a time to investigate power brokers, a time to question kings.

We know Rice used his physical power to hurt a woman. We know Sterling used his power to limit minorities. Did Atlanta GM Danny Ferry use his power the same way? Did Goodell misuse his power (or "misplace'' it, as somehow the NFL - the most lawyered-up/FBI-connected/moving-and-shaking company on the planet - couldn't press "play'' on its VCR)? Did Jones misuse "power'' of a sort (money, celebrity) by "forcing'' a woman to do something against her will? And if Jones makes this "go away'' somehow, does that really expunge the controversy and does it really discourage the next fellow barfly, and the next, from calling a lawyer and filing a suit?

The climate is ripe and the ground is fertile for the questioning of sports authority. But the climate is ripe and the ground is fertile for change, too. A scrubbing clean of all the boardrooms in all the NFL? That's not realistic, and besides, who would be the skeleton-in-closet-free leader of this brave, new, ethical world? (Condoleezza Rice? Sure, I guess. Somebody launch the background check!) So no, but there is justifiable pressure on Goodell and Jones and the NFL to move away from hypocrisy and toward transparency, to bow to and abide by their own NFL morals clause, to honor the shield rather than shrinking behind it.

I have no particular interest in seeing sports-world power brokers being "exposed'' or "taken down.'' Hell, I've been the guy at the next barstool many, many times as Jerry has been out "honky-tonkin'.'' I've expressed no moral outrage over the course of a quarter-century so will not now; nor will I attempt to box those hardly-innocuous photos into innocuous frames. But I recognize how accurate and prescient Mavs owner Mark Cuban was when he first expressed to us his "slippery-slope'' concerns about a Sterling investigation, a scandal that came about (and actually did the NBA great good in eliminating some villainy) because of a tape recording.

And now sits in the lap of pro sports, and the rest of us, an opportunity: To recognize that the video, audio and photographic equipment that now exists in everybody's pocket or on everybody's wrist needn't be there to "catch'' us doing something immoral like a "honey-grab''; it can also exist to prove that a case like this really is a "money-grab,'' and more, to serve as an electronic conscience, a technological moral compass, a reminder that our wobbling onto the wrong path is being witnessed ... by somebody.

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