Cowboys writers Jon Machota and Bob Sturm are back with their fourth discussion post of the offseason. With the annual NFL Scouting Combine taking place in Indianapolis this week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones are expected to speak to reporters later in the week.
One topic likely to be debated is ESPN’s report that the franchise reached a $2.4 million settlement after four members of its cheerleading squad shot former senior vice president of public relations Rich Dalrymple of voyeurism had accused in their dressing room.
Jerry Jones spoke briefly about the settlement in an interview with NBC 5 on Friday.
“We took these allegations very seriously,” Jones said. “We immediately started with an inspection, an investigation of the situation. I can assure you that if we had found that there would have been layoffs or suspensions if necessary. As it turns out, in the best interests of our cheerleaders, the best interests of the organization, and the best interests of our fans, we decided to show the cheerleaders how seriously we take these allegations. And we wanted them to know that we really mean it, so the deal was the right way to go.”
Machota and Sturm had the following conversation on the subject.
Machota: The part that stood out the most from Jerry Jones’ comments was that he said the Cowboys wanted the cheerleaders to know how seriously they took the allegations, so settling them was the way to go. I’m not sure how many people see a settlement like this. If there was no wrongdoing, why reach an agreement? It also doesn’t mention the other part of this story, which is that Dalrymple was accused of taking “upskirt” photos of Charlotte Jones Anderson, Jerry Jones’ daughter, in the Cowboys draft room during the 2015 NFL draft. I expect to hear more from Jerry Jones on this over the course of the week, but what did you think of his initial reaction?
Storm: I agree. To show the cheerleaders how seriously you take the claims that you then said they didn’t find anything, did you pay them half a million dollars each? I know Jerry speaks in a confusing way, but what on earth does that mean? If you found anything, he should have been fired. If you haven’t found anything, respectfully tell the ladies there’s no evidence of anything and we’ll support our man. Instead you try to thread the needle that there’s nothing to see here, and then write a huge check to reassure anyone who would dispute it? This seems like a hard story to believe, and honestly it is the actions of an organization that knows how to eliminate potential problems.
Machota: Another interesting aspect of this thread is that when the news broke about Dalrymple retiring four weeks ago, there was never any official comment from anyone on the team. There was never an official release. He was there for over 30 years, you would think something would be said and then this story comes out a few weeks later. It makes sense for Jerry to expand on the situation this week, but probably part of him thinks that will fade into the background over time. I don’t see it going away like that, but he could believe it.
Sturm: I would say that’s more than a possibility. I’d say that’s the status quo of 30 years of various things that have come up over time that the news cycle is making things go away pretty quickly. And I think the Cowboys, and Jerry Jones in particular, learned that people don’t have attention spans to wait out the silence. They usually move on to the next story in the paper, and I think that’s already happened. Maybe it’s a pretty ingenious way of dealing with scandals. And let’s face it, Jerry Jones has about as much experience dealing with scandals as anyone in the sports world, 30+ years. The odd thing, of course, is that his trusted advisor in all PR situations throughout his tenure with the Cowboys is actually Rich Dalrymple. Whether it’s a Michael Irvin thing or an Everett McIver thing or any of those things over the years, he’s probably dragged Rich Dalrymple into the room to talk about how we should be handling this with the public . That position is probably wide open right now. Maybe he just has family members who advise him on this.
The other thing that’s out there, and this has been brought up by a couple of my radio friends, is that he might play his comments slowly to see if there are any other shoes he can ditch. Is there any other information that Don Van Natta’s story has brought to light from others that could become another series of news? Well, that’s pure speculation on my part, but I think whenever we see stories of this nature, sometimes the first wave encourages others to share their stories. Maybe this is textbook, wait for everything to come out before we try to fix things.
Machota: That’s a good point. That is certainly a possibility. Van Natta wrote in the story that they tried to contact more than 100 former cheerleaders and other former team members, so they clearly did thorough reporting. Van Natta has an excellent reputation. There is no reason to doubt his reporting. And some might think that this kind of deep dive would have revealed everything. But there could certainly be others who would come forward after reading his story, and that’s not just true of the Cowboys, but other professional sports franchises as well. I think the way Jerry responds to questions on the subject, whether at the combine or in the future, will probably give a little more away. But that also leads me to what you’ve found on the radio and social media etc, do you think we care more about this story than most fans? Or do you think it’s very important to the fans?
Sturm: Measuring how much the public cares is definitely a difficult path. I would like to believe that everyone agrees on how things should be done. There’s a strange sort of sub-mind process regarding the cheerleading role in sports and how it continues to stage with modern thinking about right and wrong. And how we surround our sporting events with as much sex appeal as possible. And there’s a craze that keeps trying to update itself with society. I think that’s interesting to measure, and I think some people care a lot and some don’t care at all. But I think there’s another level where some of us local writers and broadcasters have been ridiculed for not knowing about it. Or not reporting the rumors we knew about. I would say to these people, a big part of journalism is making sure you don’t deal in rumor and hearsay about things that would deeply harm people. Some people I know in the media had heard of such things, but they didn’t have nearly enough compelling evidence to report, knowing that the threshold for making allegations has to be very high and that you can Don’t approach the reputation of ruining someone’s career or life with an email rumor someone once sent you.
I would defend my colleagues on the ground by saying I’m glad no one is throwing rumors at the wall just to see if they stick. You can’t do that in this business. Don Van Natta actually had legal documents, had copies of non-disclosure agreements sent to him. It seems he had airtight coverage. He reports professionally about these things. He does not break zone defenses or draft projections. He does this. And I’m glad he does because it requires a thorough understanding of crime and things off the field that I’m not trained in. I would defend the local media in this one situation. They didn’t turn a blind eye. I think they made sure they had their ducks lined up before throwing something out there that they can’t confirm.
Machota: So I’m not going to go into detail about what I did and didn’t hear from this particular report. I’m just saying, when you cover the Cowboys, and probably every other sports franchise, there are things you hear on and off the field. You look into her. You get together with people you trust who may have more experience in those particular areas, and you do your best to get the facts. But like you said, the last thing you do is just walk around with a rumor that could potentially ruin someone’s career or life. This type of story is very different from reporting a team’s interest in a draft prospect or free agent.
Storm: It will be interesting to see how Jerry handles this. And it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys deal with even replacing Rich Dalrymple and moving forward in that regard. It’s a big story. Anyone suggesting this is a small deal I think the Jones family would tell you, right now it’s quite the opposite. They probably don’t take this lightly, but they are very calculated about what to say and when to say it. And that’s why this week in Indianapolis could be really interesting.
(Photo by Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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