In the Ezekiel Elliott case, the NFL seemed to realize it had to be thorough. The league hasn’t always gotten that right, but it spent more than a year investigating Elliott and it didn’t leave much wiggle room in its case. Read the letter the league sent to Elliott: The NFL believes it got this right.
The NFL, which believed Elliott caused injuries to his ex-girlfriend three times in July of 2016, gave the Dallas Cowboys running back a six-game suspension. The NFL has had a tough time enforcing its domestic violence policy before, but it had the evidence and it had a policy in place to deal with it. A domestic violence violation results in a six-game suspension; that’s what the policy says.
And now ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports he believes there’s a “real chance” the Elliott suspension gets reduced.
Suspensions get reduced all the time in the NFL, for whatever silly reason. We just saw Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s suspension reduced from five games to three on Wednesday. But that was for an illegal on-field hit, not for allegedly hitting a woman. It’s hard to see what the rationale would be to reduce Elliott’s suspension. If arbitrator Harold Henderson – a former NFL executive who has heard dozens of appeals before – reduces the suspension the NFL might as well just get rid of its domestic violence policy, because it’s practically useless at that point.
Put aside for a moment what you think of what really happened with Elliott and his ex-girlfriend or any other argument you might have for Elliott’s innocence. Everyone should be able to agree the NFL itself believes what it put in that six-page letter to Elliott is factual. Also, the NFL has a policy of a six-game suspension for domestic violence, which it followed in this case. So what could possibly be the reason for reducing the suspension but not overturning it entirely?
If an arbitrator finds that the NFL totally screwed up and Elliott never assaulted his ex-girlfriend, why suspend him at all? If Henderson finds that Elliott did assault his ex-girlfriend, why give him less than six games? I’m not sure how Henderson or anyone else could argue the “physical force” the NFL described wasn’t enough to justify six games, only three or four. Imagine trying to pass that off as the justification for reducing the suspension. Or try saying that because Elliott’s ex-girlfriend allegedly tried blackmailing him, that means Elliott should get a lighter sentence. If Elliott’s suspension is reduced, it either says the NFL screwed up a 13-month investigation, or that its domestic violence policy that was celebrated three years ago is a joke.
But based on Schefter’s report, it appears we could be heading toward Elliott getting some games shaved off his suspension. If that happens, the NFL needs to rip up that domestic violence policy from 2014 and start all over, because nobody is really following it.
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