Friday afternoon was a nightmare for the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFL announced that it was suspending star running back Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games of the 2017 season for violating the personal conduct policy after a 13-month investigation on domestic violence.
The investigation started after Elliott’s ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic violence in Columbus, Ohio. In September of 2016, “conflicting and inconsistent information” led the Columbus City Attorney’s office to not pursue charges against Elliott.
So how can the NFL suspend Elliott if there are no legal charges? Well, simply, because they can due to the rules they have in place. Essentially, the NFL doesn’t have to follow the justice system as it employs its own investigative structure. The NFL said they found credible photographic and digital evidence of domestic violence. If the league finds that a player engaged in conduct (against their policies), that player can be subject to discipline.
Elliott plans to appeal the suspension and has three business days to officially file. That could come as soon as Tuesday. Then, there must be a hearing scheduled within 10 days of receipt of notice, according to Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement.
In a social media statement, Elliott said that he was “surprised and disappointed” with the NFL’s decision. His attorney’s issued a statement stating that the NFL’s findings are “replete with factional inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions.”
Cowboys’ owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, has stood by his star running back throughout this whole process. He told USA Today last month at the start of training camp the following:
“I have reviewed everything. There is absolutely nothing, not one thing I’ve seen that has anything to do with domestic violence. I’ve seen nothing.”
Jones was said to be “furious” on Friday after finding out the NFL’s decision. Jones is one of, if not the most powerful owner in the NFL, so could this lead to a drawn out battle with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, like Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft found himself in last summer? That very well could be the case.
This could play out in the courtroom, just like the Deflategate saga. That’s something every NFL fan wants to constantly hear about, right? Wrong. For the second summer in a row, the biggest story leading into the start of the regular season is the suspension of a star player. That’s not a good look for the NFL.
In December of 2014, the NFL updated its personal conduct policy to allow a six-game suspension on the first offense of domestic violence. This came after former Ravens running back Ray Rice hit his then-fiancée, which came to light after a surveillance video surfaced, showing the heinous and graphic nature of the events. Rice was suspended two games, which is what the punishment used to be for first time offenders.
The NFL was hit with a massive outcry from its fans, who wanted a harsher punishment for such a violent act.
Last season, former Giants place-kicker Josh Brown was suspended just one game for his role in a domestic violence situation with his wife. But the punishment for first-time offenders is six games, right? Well, that’s just the NFL’s way of saying that they can apply whatever rule, whenever they want.
The six-game suspension can be increased or decreased based on mitigating circumstances. The NFL has shown a significant amount of inconsistency in regards to “mitigating circumstances.”
If the suspension stands at six games, Elliott won’t be eligible to return until October 23, after the Cowboys’ Week 7 game (Dallas’ bye week is Week 6). He would return to the field against NFC divisional rival Washington at FedEx field.
The Cowboys offense will without question take a huge blow if Elliott misses any amount of playing time. After being drafted fourth overall out of Ohio State in last year’s draft, Elliott went on to lead the league in rushing with 1,631 yards to go with 15 touchdowns. The likes of Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will attempt to carry the load behind Dallas’ stout offensive line. It will be no easy task.
No matter who you are or what your profession is, domestic violence is never, in any way, shape or form, condonable.
With that said, if Elliott truly did not commit an act of domestic violence, he should not be suspended. However, the NFL has its own justice system and in the end, Roger Goodell, for better or worse, is the judge, jury and executioner.
— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) August 12, 2017
For Elliott, this is about more than just football. Hopefully this is a wakeup call for him to focus mainly on football and not all the extracurricular activities he finds himself in. For his sake, hopefully he can learn from this and move on, regardless of how many games he does or doesn’t miss, and have a successful career.