Photo Credits: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports
Even in the off-season, the National Football League (“NFL”) cannot seem to escape bad publicity. One of the league’s most prominent owners is dealing with a paternity lawsuit filed against him on March 3rd. The lawsuit alleges that Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, agreed to a settlement to financially support a woman he had a child with in the mid-1990s in exchange for her keeping the arrangement a secret. Jones denied he was the father of the child in settlement documents. Alexandra Davis, now 25 years old, asks the court to find that she is not legally bound by the settlement entered into by her mother. She also asked to be recognized as Jones’s daughter. According to The Dallas Morning News, Davis is not seeking any monetary relief from the lawsuit.
The settlement included a $375,000 payment to the woman “in exchange for confidentiality” and Jones also set up two trusts for the child. The complaint stated Davis “has lived her life fatherless and in secret and in fear that if she should tell anyone who her father was, she and her mother would lose financial support, or worse.” It also states “[d]efendant Jones, with the help of lawyers, knowing that Cynthia was now a single mother with a very young child and an uncertain financial future at best, set out to negotiate a ‘settlement’ that would exchange the money for silence [‘hush money’].” There is a hearing scheduled for March 31st. Since news of the suit broke, the court has sealed the lawsuit, so additional information or disclosures may be difficult to come by.
This is not the first example of “hush money” coming from Jones and the Cowboys organization. In February, ESPN previously reported a $2.4 million confidential settlement involving four members of the cheerleading squad who accused a former executive of voyeurism. See more details regarding this story here. These two incidents have come to light recently and they beg the question of how many other confidential settlements have been made by this organization and others to buy the silence of accusers?
The Cowboys organization is also not the only NFL or major sports team involved in alleged incidents of misconduct or questionable behavior from the teams’ owners. Robert Kraft was charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution in 2019 after an investigation into several Florida day spas and massage parlors revealed they were allegedly used for prostitution. These charges were eventually dropped in 2020. However, once again the optics do not bode well for the NFL and its owners.
Some other examples of misconduct were so egregious that it led to a change in ownership including, Jerry Richardson and Donald Sterling. Richardson ultimately sold the Carolina Panthers after accusations of racism and repeated sexual misconduct. Sterling, an NBA owner, was suspended from the NBA and forced to sell the Clippers in 2014 after numerous incidents of egregious racism came to light.
All of these examples demonstrate instances of misconduct associated with the owners of major league sports teams. The most recent example of allegations related to Jerry Jones’s use of “hush money” to conceal the existence of his alleged daughter is just one of many damaging headlines. The poor reflection on the league, the owners, and the game itself certainly continue to have an impact on the integrity of the game.
 Nataly Keomoungkhoun, What to Know About a Lawsuit Filed by a Woman Who Says Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is Her Dad, The Dallas Morning News, (Mar. 10, 2022), https://www.dallasnews.com/news/courts/2022/03/10/what-to-know-about-a-lawsuit-filed-by-a-woman-who-says-dallas-cowboys-owner-jerry-jones-is-her-dad/
 Don Van Natta Jr., Woman sues Jerry Jones, alleges Dallas Cowboys owner paid her mother to conceal that he was her biological father, ESPN, (Mar. 9, 2022), https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33464117/woman-sues-jerry-jones-alleges-dallas-cowboys-owner-biological-father
 Supra, note 1.
 Supra, note 2.
 Supra, note 1.
 Supra, note 2.
 Don Van Natta Jr., Lawyers for woman suing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Client isn’t motivated by money, ESPN, (Mar. 10, 2022), https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33471398/lawyers-woman-suing-dallas-cowboys-owner-jerry-jones-client-motivated-money
 Don Van Natta Jr., Cowboys paid $2.4 million to settle cheerleaders’ voyeurism allegations against senior team executive, ESPN, (Feb. 16, 2022), https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33231841/dallas-cowboys-paid-24-million-settle-cheerleaders-voyeurism-allegations
 Nicole Chavez, Robert Kraft offers apology after charges of soliciting prostitution, CNN, (Mar. 24, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/23/us/robert-kraft-apology-solicitation-charges/index.html
 Hollier Silverman, Solicitation charges dropped against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, CNN, (Sept. 24, 2020), https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/24/us/florida-robert-kraft-solicitation-charges-dropped/index.html
 Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner Richardson selling team, CNBC, (Dec. 18, 2017), https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/18/facing-misconduct-investigation-panthers-owner-selling-team.html
 Matthew Yglesias, Donald Sterling’s racist outburst, Vox, (May 13, 2015), https://www.vox.com/2014/4/29/18077046/donald-sterling