The NFL suspended former No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games of the 2017-18 season stemming from an investigation into alleged domestic violence incidents, and a decision on his 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision has been announced, and Elliott's suspension has been reinstated.
The announcement comes after Elliott's original appeal of his six-game suspension was upheld.
Elliott hasn't missed a game thus far this season while the appeal process has played out.
He has rushed for 277 yards and two touchdowns over the first four games of the season.
Original investigator recommended no suspension
According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (H/T PFT), the league's lead investigator Kia Roberts recommended no suspension and testified that during an appeal hearing following interviews with Elliott's ex-girlfriend.
To make matters worse, Roberts' recommendation never made it into the league's final report, didn't make it into the official suspension letter and she was reportedly banned from attending the meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell by senior vice president of investigations Lisa Friel where they discussed punishment for Elliott.
It was knowledge of Roberts' recommendation and reported assurance from an NFL exec that left team owner Jerry Jones "furious" after the decision, according to the report.
Adam Schefter thought Ezekiel Elliott suspension would be reduced
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported there is a "real chance" Elliott gets his suspension reduced.
Schefter discussed there is "sworn testimony" out there and it could lead to Elliott getting less time.
NFL, NFLPA spar with statements
The appeal process comes on the heels of the NFL releasing a statement on its decision.
"Over the past few days we've received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media about the victim in the Ezekiel Elliott discipline case.
It's common tactic to attempt to prove the innocence of the accused by discrediting the victim -- in this case Ms. Thompson -- when coming forward to report such abuse. Common or not, these tactics are shameful. Efforts to shame and blame victims are often what prevent people from coming forward to report violence and/or seek help in the first place."
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports obtained a report from the NFL that cites Elliott's accuser, Tiffany Thompson, exchanging text messages with a friend in what appears to be a plot to extort Elliott through the use of video footage of sexual acts.
"[Thompson]: What if I sold mine and Ezekiel's sex videos
[Friend]: We'd all be millionaires
[Friend]: We could black mail him w that
[Thompson]: I want to bro
[Friend]: Let's do it
[Friend]: Id be like look give me 10k or I'll just sell our sex videos for the same amount flat
[Friend]: Me and my friends tryna go on vacation and get boob jobs
(the report notes a pair of blank texts)
[Thompson]: 10k Bitch I want 20k
[Thompson]: Go big or go home
[Friend]: That's fine too
[Friend]: Like what"
When reached for comment for the story, Thompson's friend said the following to Yahoo:
"I have literally no comment on that. I already spoke to somebody about that. It was an investigator. It was like, someone working for the NFL. It was like years ago, so I don't even remember what I said."
It is (very) important to note that this exchange does not rule out the allegation of abuse but, in the same breath, it could bring credibility issues that Elliott's team could attempt to use in the appeal of the suspension. At the very least, the information coming to light in the public is not ideal from an optics perspective, especially given the strong response that both Elliott and his agent have put forth after learning of the suspension.
Potential banishment for Ezekiel Elliott?
Back in early August, according to Ian Rapoport, the league threatened "potential banishment" for any additional violations:
Here's what the league said about Elliott's suspension, via a press release:
Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys was notified today by the NFL that he will be suspended without pay for the team's first six 2017 regular-season games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy.
Over the course of the last year, the league conducted an extensive investigation. League investigators interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including Ms. Tiffany Thompson, who had alleged multiple instances of physical violence in July 2016, and Mr. Elliott. The league also consulted with medical experts. League investigators examined all available evidence, including photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications.
Pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Goodell sought the views of four external advisors (see below) to assist him in evaluating potential violations. These experts range in experience from law enforcement, judicial and public service, and other specialized subject areas.
The advisors participated in a meeting on June 26, 2017 in New York City with Elliott, who was represented by his legal team and the NFL Players Association. The group also reviewed the league's investigative reports and materials, the expert medical reports, and multiple NFL Players Association submissions on Elliott's behalf.
In a letter to Elliott advising him of the decision, Todd Jones, the NFL's Special Counsel for Conduct, said these advisors "were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016."
After reviewing the record, and having considered the views of the independent advisors, the commissioner determined that the credible evidence established that Elliott engaged in conduct that violated NFL policy.
Elliott may appeal this decision within three days. If he does not appeal, Elliott's suspension will begin September 2, the day of final roster reductions for NFL teams. He is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. Elliott will be eligible to return to the team's active roster on Monday, October 23 following the Cowboys' Sunday, October 22 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The move comes despite charges never being filed against Elliott.
Ezekiel Elliott domestic abuse accusations
Elliott was allegedly involved in a 2016 incident in which he was accused of domestic violence by a now ex-girlfriend. While charges were never filed in the case, the NFL refused to close the investigation. The woman he allegedly abused shared pictures via Instagram of her reported injuries:
The woman tagged Elliott in one of the posts, and here's the caption from the first photo:
"Just for every women out there getting abused it's time to put a stop to it. This has been happening to me for months and it finally got out of control to where I was picked up and thrown across the room by my arms. Thrown into walls. Being choked to where I have to gasp for breath. Bruised everywhere, mentally and physically abused. It's not okay. So I want each and everyone one of you girls to step away now from domestic violence. You're worth so much more. I got told it was called "tough love" I'm sorry if you love someone you don't touch your loved ones."
Elliott's reps told TMZ, "I can assure you [the allegations] are not true."
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, in speaking with Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, brought word that Elliott appeared to be in the clear in mid-March.
"Per Hill, Elliott has been advised by his representatives that he will face no punishment from the league as a result of the 2016 incident, and that it's just a matter of time before the NFL closes the case. Because Elliott subjectively believes he's in the clear, his decision to pull down a woman's top during a St. Patrick's Day parade seems less stupid, in theory."
Elliott was not charged in connection to those allegations, but the NFL still chose to investigate.
Pro Football Talk notes that the woman who accused him of abusing her is also making the claim that he did it fives times over the course of six days.
This is what the commissioner said about the punishment of Ben Roethlisberger following two accusations of sexual assault despite no prosecution, per the report:
"My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated [the] law," Goodell told Roethlisberger. "[Y]ou are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct . . . that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans. . . . Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare."
Ezekiel Elliott St. Patty's Day shenanigans
He was later caught on video pulling down a woman's top during a St. Patrick's Day Parade and per TMZ, one of Elliott's representatives claims it was "all in good fun" and that the "woman wasn't upset."
While Elliott was not detained by police, this kind of behavior is absolutely inexcusable and it doesn't matter if the woman condoned it or not.
Ezekiel Elliott alleged nightclub incident
Elliott's latest incident, as reported by Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, reportedly involved the star running back allegedly punching a DJ. Photos have since emerged of the alleged victim, and it's not great:
With regard to the incident, Fisher wrote the following on Scout.com
Elliott seemed unencumbered by the situation on Saturday when he attended Tony Romo's National Fantasy Football Convention, signing autographs for fans and playfully leaping into a Salvation Army kettle, recreating a scene from his stellar 2016 season. But a day and a half later, sources tell me, Elliott was at Clutch Bar. ... A punch was thrown. ... Police were called. ... An ambulance arrived on the scene.
The Dallas Police have since released this statement.
On July 16, 2017, at approximately 9:40 pm, Dallas officers were dispatched to a disturbance call in the 2500 lock of Cedar Springs Road. The disturbance involved a 30 year old male victim who state he had been physically assaulted. According to the report, the victim did not know who assaulted him. The victim was transported to an area hospital for non-life threatening injuries. There were no arrests made for this offense, nor were there anyone listed on the report as a suspension. This investigation is on-going and we will update you information becomes available.
The police report does not mention an arrest, nor does it mention Elliott or any suspect in the assault. The Cowboys have also released their own statement, saying that the team is aware of the incident and investigation.
He also appealed a misdemeanor speeding ticket where he was apparently clocked at 100 mph, 30 mph over the speed limit.
After a standout career with Ohio State, Elliott was taken with the No. 4 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cowboys. Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first season, losing out the Offensive Rookie of the Year award to teammate Dak Prescott.
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