The recently circulated salacious pictures of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in provocative poses with a couple of much younger women are now part of a sexual assault lawsuit against Jones. The lawsuit is being filed by Jana Weckerly, identified as the woman who took the pictures. I will refrain from quoting the second paragraph of that article which describes the charges which are sexual in nature, but the end result is the woman is suing for $1 million in damages.
Jones' lawyers quickly responded.
"We intend to vigorously contest this complaint and expect it will be shown for what it is - a money grab. Due to the seriousness of these baseless allegations, we have also involved law enforcement."
The timing of this, fresh on the heels of the release of the full Ray Rice assault video, puts a lot of pressure on Jones and the NFL to avoid any appearance of trying to sweep this under the rug. While the situation is entirely different than what happened with Rice, there is still the aspect of a powerful man (physical in Rice's case, financially in Jones') allegedly abusing a woman, with visual evidence. Even if the parallels are strained, the fact that it is being brought forward at such an emotionally charged time in the league and the media carries its own dangers.
This may be nothing more than an enormous embarrassment for Jones, since questions are already being raised about whether the lawsuit falls within the statue of limitations for such filings. The lawsuit is being filed as a civil matter, which has a much shorter period (usually two years) in which it can be filed than would a criminal charge. That time has already passed, by a good bit, with the original incident happening in June 2009.
A criminal charge would still be admissible, but the delay in filing it raises considerable questions about any such accusations. The claim that this is indeed a "money grab" is plausible. However, questions can also be asked about the appropriateness of Jones' behavior under the NFL moral clause, which is supposed to apply to owners as well as athletes. Again, we don't know if this could be anything that could cause more than just a huge image problem, but this is a simply horrific time to have to deal with this. Verbal missteps will be all too easy to make (this is Jerry Jones we are talking about) and the reaction could easily get out of control.
It is hard to paint a completely innocuous picture of what a married man was up to in that hotel bathroom. The images of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys, and the league are certainly going to take some damage from this.