Ezekiel Elliott's appeal of his six-game suspension for domestic violence is one of the biggest stories in the NFL right now. The hearing is supposed to end today and then we will have to wait and see what arbiter Harold Henderson decides as to the length of Elliott's ban, or if it even still exists.
This morning I had “Mike & Mike” on in the background while getting ready for work and Mike Greenberg began reading off the NFL's suspensions under the domestic violence (D.V.) policy since 2014. Of course, that was the year of the Ray Rice incident that brought the NFL's handling of domestic violence issues under public fire. A new policy was instituted that set a six-game minimum for D.V. incidents.
With the help of this article from Michael David Smith about the NFL's handling of domestic violence, here is a summary of the cases that have come between Ray Rice and Ezekiel Elliott:
- 2014 – Quincy Enunwa, Jets WR, was arrested and charged with assaulting a woman. Suspension: 4 games
- 2014 – Jonathan Dwyer, Cardinals RB, was arrested and charged for D.V. against his wife. Suspension: 3 games
- 2015 – Junior Galette, Washington LB, was arrested and charged with D.V. Charges were later dropped. Suspension: 2 games.
- 2015 – Joseph Randle, Cowboys RB, was arrested and charged but charges were later dropped. This was four months after a shoplifting arrest and other issues Randle had during a short, trouble-filled NFL career. Suspension: 4 games.
- 2015 – Andrew Quarless, Packers TE, was accused of firing a gun into the air during a domestic argument. Suspension: 2 games.
- 2016 – Josh Brown, Giants K, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor D.V. against his wife. Suspension: 1 game
In case you didn't get it the first five times, let me just make sure…
“ARRESTED AND CHARGED”
Those two words hang over this case more than any other fact, question, or opinion. The NFL, namely Roger Goodell, has routinely come down softer on players with legal arrests, charges and even admissions of guilt related to domestic violence. None of these apply in Ezekiel Elliott's case.
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.
It is fair to ask what Goodell and his cronies had that made them think any sort of suspension was warranted. It is imperative to ask what they had that made them suddenly decide to stick to the six-game minimum. Why would Goodell suddenly decide to drop the hammer on arguably the weakest case of domestic violence he's reviewed since the policy was enacted?
(That's a picture of Goodell and NY Giants owner John Mara, whose team plays the Cowboys in Week One. I'm just going to leave that there.)
(Oh, but go back up to that list and see Josh Brown again. See what team he played for. See how many games he got compared to the rest.)
You can't cite mandatory minimums when you've done nothing but undercut them for three years. Goodell has already broken his own D.V. policy with this history and it makes everything happening now with Ezekiel Elliott highly questionable, if not suspect for incompetence and even corruption.
You could argue that this isn't about Elliott but the NFL trying to reset the bar for domestic violence and add teeth back to their own policy. If that is the goal then they picked the wrong case to do it with. There is no arrest or charge, only an accuser with major credibility issues. The NFL has chosen the wrong scapegoat.
This situation reveals a lot about who and what Roger Goodell really is. At the least, he's inconsistent and therefore ill-equipped to handle such important and personally damaging issues as domestic violence and other personal conduct issues. His track record of incompetence in these matters is clear and it's the players and their reputations who suffer the most from Goodell's wishy-washy judgments.
Look at that picture again. This situation tells you what a lie it is, and why Goodell is deservedly booed at every draft. He is the last guy that should be welcoming these players to the NFL, given that he has consistently proven to have their well-being furthest from his mind. When it comes to the NFL relationship with its talent pool, the commissioner should be somewhere between the owners and the players. Goodell has always been the owners' puppet and easily swayed by what he thinks will appease public opinion.
Some have tried to excuse Goodell's treatment of Elliott as trying to “scare him straight.” There's no denying that Zeke has had some maturity and decision-making issues, but can we talk about Joseph Randle again? His track record was awful going into his D.V. incident and yet still Goodell didn't give him the six-game minimum. The only thing consistent about Goodell is his inconsistency.
A real commissioner would look at nothing but Ezekiel Elliott, Tiffany Thompson, and the facts of the case. He would look at prior decisions and the reasoning that went into them. He wouldn't need appeals and courts to solve fairly simple issues that anyone in his position should be able to handle.
But no, that's not what we have in the NFL. We have a guy that is a cross between Pinocchio and a wet noodle. And sadly, it looks like we're stuck with him for a while.
I freely admit that I'm a Cowboys fan and, as such, have plenty of bias in this situation. But anyone who looks at the known facts and information about this case shouldn't be far behind Cowboys Nation in their outrage. All 32 fan bases of the NFL, even those in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, should be angry about injustice.
Your favorite player may be the next on Goodell's docket. Whatever the next hot button issue is that has the public pointing fingers at the NFL, the unfortunate player who gets in Goodell's crosshairs will face his same unpredictable rulings. Even worse, he may be convicted by the NFL for a crime he didn't commit and no true judicial body saw fit to pursue.
This isn't about the Cowboys season or your fantasy football team. This is about a real person, 22-year-old Ezekiel Elliott, and a potentially false accusation that the NFL has now obtusely stamped right on his forehead. Even if Harold Henderson drops the suspension to just a couple of games, Zeke should strongly consider taking the matter to court. Accepting any suspension could be seen as an admission of some degree of guilt, and an innocent man (I hope) shouldn't have to live with that.
We will know soon what Henderson decided and then see how things unfold. Whatever the end result, Roger Goodell has already failed. Once again, he has allowed a situation to go too far and ultimately out of his hands. He's the worst fumbler in the history of the NFL.