PALM BEACH, Fla. — Jerry Jones conceded the conversation was fair.
After decades owning the Cowboys, decades drawing attention and fans to what’s been dubbed America’s Team, allegations of a former executive’s voyeurism and the discovery of a confidential settlement will not simply disappear without discussion.
So Monday morning at the NFL’s annual meeting, Jones fielded questions from local reporters for the first time since news of the Cowboys’ $2.4 million settlement with team cheerleaders became public. The settlement followed allegations that a team vice president took photos and/or videos in the cheerleaders’ locker room in 2015.
Rich Dalrymple, the then-Cowboys’ senior vice president of public relations and communications, retired in February two weeks before ESPN released its report. I have denied wrongdoing.
“When you spend going-on-30-something years, saying, ‘Look at us, hey, wait, you’re looking away, look at us, we’re the Cowboys’—when you go that way, then when you have some things you may not want to look at, you get looked at,” Jones said.
Jones said the decision to settle and commit to nondisclosure was in the “best interests of the makeup of (our) constituency.” I have listed the cheerleaders, Cowboys employees, fans and the public as constituencies whom a quiet arrangement benefited. Jones insisted he sought “ultimate fairness” in the adjudication that resulted in each cheerleader defendant netting $399,523.27 while Dalrymple remained employed after an internal investigation. Dalrymple left “on his own terms” and “had our ethos down,” Jones said, adding that the settlement payout did not reflect whether he believed the cheerleaders’ concern that Dalrymple had extended an iPhone toward them while they changed clothes in their stadium locker room.
“I’d rather sometimes take a little bump on the overall picture to have been more sensitive to the circumstances behind the issues involved and maybe come out looking like you were learning one way or the other,” Jones said. “Nothing about that was an effort to adjudicate guilt or innocence. It was about what was in the best interest of the pecking order starting with alleged victims.”
A spokesman for the Cowboys told USA TODAY Sports in February that “the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing” and “if any wrongdoing had been found, Rich would have been terminated immediately.” Dalrymple said his presence in the locker room was accidental.
“The cheerleaders are a vital part of the Dallas Cowboys family, and in terms of the settlement, the organization wanted to go above and beyond to ensure the cheerleaders knew that their allegations had been taken extremely seriously, and immediately and thoroughly investigated,” the spokesman, Jim Wilkinson, said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “Everyone involved felt just terrible about this unfortunate incident.”
Dalrymple was also accused of taking “upskirt” photos of Cowboys executive vice president/chief brand officer Charlotte Jones from the Cowboys’ draft boardroom. Jones was asked whether it could be assumed Dalrymple would have been terminated if the team believed the allegations.
“I wouldn’t comment on that but she is my daughter,” he said. “I am proud of her. She is my daughter. That is all I have to say and I am proud of that. Your assumptions are just as pure and right as they can possibly be.”
In reflection, Jones doesn’t believe allegations against Dalrymple nor a recent lawsuit alleging paternity claims indicating Cowboys cultural concerns. To the contrary, I have argued that the club’s human resources protocol demonstrated “sophistication…ahead of its time.”
“I’m very proud of our workplace culture,” Jones said. “I’m extraordinarily proud. We have great systems, we have great HR, we have a high sensitivity. I’m proud of all our ratios that we have, a lot of the social aspects of our workplace. Extraordinarily proud of it.
“Do we have room for improvement? Yes, but that’s ongoing. You can have bad times and you can have good times as far as even your grade might go. But we’re always striving to get the best grade.
“I have the unique position of knowing about other workplace cultures and other businesses. As an executive of the Cowboys, I have a good feeling for other organizations and business cultures.
“In my mind, we’re really good.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @joriepstein.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism