Earlier this month, the NFL suspended Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott for 6 games after finding “substantial and persuasive evidence that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence” against his ex-girlfriend in July of 2016.
Now, as Elliott appeals his suspension, the details of the case, the process the NFL took, and the legal grounds for his suspension, are beginning to look a little murky.
With a hard deadline set for arbitrator Harold Henderson to make a ruling on Elliott’s appeal by Monday, Elliott’s chances of overturning his suspension or an eventual victory in Federal Court were improved during the hearings, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The biggest issue with the NFL’s investigation is the revelation that Kia Roberts, director of investigations for the NFL, reportedly recommended no suspension for Elliott after examining the evidence and speaking to Elliott’s former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson.
“Roberts recommended no suspension for Elliott following her interviews with Thompson during the investigation — a fact Roberts testified to during the appeals hearing with Henderson, according to a source.”
The Star Telegram further reports that following Roberts’ recommendation of no suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell excluded her from the final meeting to determine the Elliott ruling.
Elliott’s lawyers harped on this detail, as it was a clear departure from the process of the investigation. Excluding the lead investigator from the meeting to determine Elliott’s suspension is clearly an odd way to get the right result.
From the Star-Telegram:
“Elliott and the NFLPA attacked Roberts’ absence as a process failure during the appeal hearing and plan to exploit it if they go to federal court to seek a temporary injunction against a suspension.
“That Roberts’ recommendation didn’t make it into the report and that she wasn’t involved in the decision could be used against the NFL if a federal court case is pursued.”
Yikes. This whole thing is unfortunate.
It sure looks like the NFL is heading towards Deflategate 2.0 where they take one of the league’s star players to Federal Court over a suspension with questionable legal grounds.
The obvious difference between this ordeal and Deflategate is that this isn’t about deflated balls, these are allegations of domestic violence against Elliott, which are obviously much more serious.
This investigation lasted over 13 months from back in the summer of 2016 when Thompson accused Elliott of domestic violence over social media, but charges were never filed. From Deadspin:
Thompson first accused him of domestic abuse with social media photos of her bruised body last July. The Columbus, Ohio, police department declined to press charges, citing ‘conflicting and inconsistent information across all incidents resulting in concern regarding the sufficiency of the evidence.’ One witness told prosecutors that Thompson had asked her to lie to police about the alleged assault and provided text messages that appeared to show as much.”
Man, this is ugly.
We’ll know by Monday whether Elliott’s suspension is upheld or not, but it seems like that will only be the beginning of a longer protracted legal battle between the star running back and the NFL.
No matter what, there are no winners here.