When the Dallas Cowboys take the field next month, they'll be without one their best players. The NFL suspended 22-year-old running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games after a yearlong domestic violence investigation.
The NFL is taking this case seriously. After several high-profile domestic abuse cases within the league, they're not backing down. Last July, Tiffany Thompson accused Elliott of assaulting her. Elliott's lawyers have focused their appeal of the suspension on disproving her credibility.
Elliott filed an appeal with the league on Tuesday. Though law enforcement dropped the case, the NFL determined that there is "substantial" evidence that Elliott assaulted his former girlfriend. He denies this.
On Wednesday, the league scolded Elliott and the Players Union for what they called "attempting to shame and discredit his accuser in the media."
The role of the NFL
Jennifer Gates is a Dallas City Council member and chairman of the Domestic Violence Taskforce. She is also the daughter of Cowboys legend Roger Staubach, and thinks the lines shouldn’t be blurred.
“There is a natural tendency to want to look the other away, but we can’t,” Gates says. “We can’t do that and the NFL shouldn’t tolerate [it], teams shouldn’t tolerate it, teammates shouldn’t tolerate their teammates' behavior that way. We shouldn’t make excuses just because they’re athletes.”
The alleged assault took place in Columbus, Ohio. Elliott was not arrested or charged, but the NFL opened its own investigation.
The league's report shows they talked with more than a dozen witnesses, had photographic evidence of bruises and reviewed text messages between Elliott and his then girlfriend.
Cowboys fans like Chris Doborwicz take issue with this. Elliott's one of the best on the team and lead the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie. Doborwicz doesn't feel like it's the leagues job to police players, and wants the suspension dropped.
“Considering that he wasn’t charged, and he hasn’t been proven guilty, I think it was pretty harsh,” he says. “Based on what we do know, I would say it’s not fair at this point in time.”
In the legal world, the prosecutor concluded Thompson’s statements conflicted with the ones made by Elliott and witnesses.
In the sports world, the NFL's changed its stance on domestic violence. In 2014, a player who punched his wife on camera was only given a two-game suspension. Public outrage ensued.
Council member Gates says the NFL's doing the right thing by listening to victims who might not normally be heard.
“I think the NFL listened and had an objective review with experts and a fair panel to make that analysis,” she says.
On Aug. 29, Elliott will have a hearing to contest his suspension. The NFL has designated former league executive Harold Henderson to oversee the case.
If Elliott and the Cowboys aren't happy with that decision they could try could try filing a lawsuit.
Photo credit: Rodger Mallison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram