Thirteen months of NFL investigation into Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott have boiled down to three days of much of the same finger-pointing, accusations of procedural wrongdoing, and protection of public perception as Elliott began his appeal of the six game suspension issued on August 11th Tuesday.
Presenting his case to arbitrator Harold Henderson from an undisclosed New York location, the belief from the start of Elliott's appeal would be that some new information would need to be presented from his team for the suspension to be reversed or reduced. After over 25 hours of deliberation, not only has Elliott been able to do just this with the recently hired Jeffrey Kessler on his side (a lawyer that the NFL knows all too well), but plenty of new substantial details have surfaced on the league's poor handling of their initial investigation.
NFLPA alleging a "league-orchestrated conspiracy..to hide critical information which would completely exonerate Elliott" https://t.co/WUn9hK94g2
Henderson of course still represents the league and has been known to still rule in their favor despite a record of reducing some significant suspensions, but pressure that he reportedly now faces to make a decision will only expedite the airing of any final accusations on both sides over the coming days.
Ezekiel Elliott has another card left to play, as anything but a complete reversal of his six game suspension will likely lead to his case against the NFL reaching the courts. For the NFL, this appeal was their last chance to contain any wrongdoing they'll be forced to admit to and come to the correct decision on Elliott.
Although this is not solely a suspension handed down for domestic violence, Elliott's involvement with Tiffany Thompson remains the most important event, and an incident like the ones that led to Thompson's bruises (used as forensic evidence in the league's investigation) can only lead to a black and white ruling – whoever caused this harm to Thompson deserves legal consequence, and that person is either Ezekiel Elliott or not.
People within the NFL believe it was very likely not Ezekiel Elliott that abused Thompson.
In #Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott's appeal, they had a current NFL employee in Kia Roberts testify against the NFL. I mean… wow.
We've known that Elliott himself, the Columbus District Attorney, Jerry Jones, and many others believe Zeke is entirely innocent based on the evidence that has been made public thus far. What became known yesterday – a stunning addition to the above list – is much more volatile for the NFL.
Kia Roberts is the NFL's director of investigations, and has testified to Henderson that she recommended no suspension for Ezekiel Elliott following Roberts' interview with Thompson. Roberts' contributions to the case never saw the light of day, as it was ultimately Roger Goodell's power under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that spurred Elliott's suspension.
NFLPA filing calls for the court in Eastern Texas to vacate any suspension of Ezekiel Elliott based on the process issues. https://t.co/g9YRPaUXrT
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 1, 2017
From the start, the NFLPA has also been defending Ezekiel Elliott stronger then they have publicly for any player in recent memory. Late last night the news broke that they are pursuing a conspiracy case against the league in their orchestration of hiding key evidence that would exonerate Elliott.
It is unclear at this time what this most recent news means for the immediate results of Elliott's appeal, or how the NFLPA is expecting Henderson to rule.
Elliott was never arrested or charged by police after an investigation into Tiffany Thompson's accusations. Not only that, but Thompson's credibility has been ripped to shreds from more than one angle. Zeke even filed a harassment claim against her last year for repeated phone calls and messages, including threats to blackmail him.
This quote comes from Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie's deeper look at the NFL's handling of domestic violence as it pertains to the precedent they've tried to set – or not – with a young star of the game in Ezekiel Elliott. The fact that Elliott was never arrested or charged continues to loom incredibly large.
Roger Goodell never spoke to Thompson himself through the investigation, and Harold Henderson barred her testimony from Elliott's appeal. Instead, he has ended up with something much more poignant – further proof of Thompson's inability to be trustworthy, the league's ability to fairly investigate one of their players, and potentially even additional direct evidence of Elliott's innocence towards Thompson.
The Cowboys are all set to play the New York Giants to kickoff the regular season in nine days. As of this moment, they would still be playing without Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. One way or another, Harold Henderson is going to have to make an incredibly tough decision very soon to cement Elliott's week one status – and more importantly his next step.
An Ezekiel Elliott that's strapping on his helmet and carrying the rock for America's Team on Sunday Night Football may be the best case scenario for the Dallas Cowboys, but it could be far from that for the NFL regardless of Elliott's intention to take this case to court following the announcement of these appeal results.
To think how incredibly close we may be to saying, “remember that time…” when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott being suspended for the first six games of the 2017 season which is upon us. We also may be just as close to collectively remembering where we were as Cowboys Nation when a second-year running back brought the NFL to court and created change in one of the most powerful businesses going right now.