Ezekiel Elliott may or may not be in hot water with the NFL for an off-field domestic incident stemming from last year, though it’s well worth noting that legally — he’s not in any trouble.
The NFL has continued to probe that incident, though, and it does have grounds because Elliott allegedly broke the league’s personal conduct policy. That gives NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell some ground to stand on in this case, though it is extremely drawn out and well past the fact.
It’s also being convoluted by a recent revelation about the lead investigator into the matter, Lisa Mendelson Friel, who is apparently a huge New York Giants fan. The rivalry and bad blood between the Giants and Dallas Cowboys — two NFC East opponents — is strong on and off the field, so the fact that the person responsible for investigating whether or not the Dallas star should face a suspension in 2017 is a fan of the Cowboys’ heated rival doesn’t look good.
For all intents and purposes, Mendelson Friel is a professional. That doesn’t stop this from looking bad for Goodell and the league from a PR perspective, though.
Here’s how The Daily Beast profiled the NFL’s lead investigator back in 2014 when she joined the league after making her name as a sex crimes prosecutor.
She’s the sort of fan who turned the den of her Brooklyn home into a shrine (painting it Giants blue and red and decorating it with team paraphernalia and a life-size wall-hanging of Eli Manning), boasts season tickets that have been in her family for more than 60 years, and cheers her lungs out at every game at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
“She’s a rabid Giants fan,” says Friel’s former boss, Linda Fairstein, the famed New York prosecutor-turned-crime novelist. “I can be sitting at home staying good and toasty, watching a game, and she’s out there in all kinds of weather,” Fairstein says. “She knows football inside-out.”
Professionally speaking, there’s nothing that suggests Mendelson Friel is anything but a professional in her handling of investigations for Goodell and the NFL — even if those investigations are into a player on a team that she likely despises.
She likely didn’t get to this point in her career without understanding how to separate work from passion and fandom, so this is not an article that suggests that she would act anything but completely fair in the handling of Eliott and the investigation into his incident.
That article, in fact, shouldn’t be written by anybody. It shouldn’t be written, but with that said, that, unfortunately, won’t stop Dallas fans and tin foil hat wearers in NFL circles from claiming a Giants fans tried to sabotage the Cowboys’ 2017 season if Elliott ends up missing any time this year due to a suspension.
Speaking of, the suspension — or non-suspension — is still apparently up in the air. And for what it’s worth, Goodell is reportedly waiting on four outside advisors to finish their work on this case.
No tin foil hats here, folks.