SBD/August 14, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Elliott Likely To Appeal Six-Game Suspension Tuesday; NFL Praised For Its Handling

Elliott has made it clear that he disagrees with the NFL's findings in the case
An appeal of Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension handed down by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy "is likely to be submitted" tomorrow, according to a source cited by ESPN's Adam Schefter (TWITTER.com, 8/13). NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Elliott is "analyzing his long-term situation" and has "made it clear ... that he disagreed with the NFL's findings in this case." Elliott and his camp "believe they have witnesses and people on their side who can counteract some of the claim that is the NFL got to in this point." The league "did employ a panel of experts here to inform Roger Goodell during the process and help him reach his conclusion, so that, they believe, would be helpful on their side should this thing continue down the road and wind up in some kind of a lawsuit" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 8/12). In Dallas, David Moore noted Elliott can "dig in and refuse to accept the decision," or he can "go on a contrition tour leading up to his appeal hearing in an attempt to reduce the punishment" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/13). Moore wrote what takes place from this point forward "isn't about fairness to Elliott." It is about "not liking the decision." It is about "trying to find a loophole that will keep one of the league's brightest young stars on the field" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/12).

STRONG MOVE BY THE LEAGUE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton wrote the suspension was an "emphatic move by the league after a long investigation into multiple alleged domestic violence incidents from last year." The context of the Elliott investigation "made it a high-profile test for the reach of the NFL’s power, because prosecutors did not ultimately bring charges against him" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/12). Meanwhile, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS reported the NFL has "closed its investigation" of Elliott's involvement in an altercation at a Dallas bar. After news broke of Elliott's suspension, it was also "revealed in a letter from the NFL that Elliott could face additional suspension time for other violations." This particular altercation was "being dealt with separately from the violations he has currently been suspended for" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/13).

MESSAGE RECEIVED: BLEACHER REPORT's Mike Freeman wrote the NFL, after a "sea of inconsistent, self-serving and utterly idiotic decisions relating to its players and domestic violence, may have finally gotten one right." The league "seems to be making a key new statement with the suspension: Don't even be on the fringe of this discussion, or you will incur the full wrath of a recently woke NFL on the issue of domestic violence" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 8/11). ESPN's Jeremy Schaap said, "The message is clear, that we are going to come down harshly if we determine there is a preponderance of evidence that you're engaged in some kind of domestic abuse." ESPN's Bob Ley: "They couldn't afford to miss it here" ("E:60," ESPN, 8/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote Goodell is "within his rights" under the CBA to suspend Elliott. Aside from the "obvious sense of right or wrong, he is obligated as someone trying to protect the business to come down on this type of behavior that can adversely affect the league’s bottom line." No one wants to "support a company that supports perpetrators of domestic violence" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/11).

GETTING IT RIGHT: In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote Goodell "made the right call." Working from behind a "battered NFL shield, he made a bold move to strengthen it" (L.A. TIMES, 8/12). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote the NFL is "taking no chances" that Elliott assaulted a woman. The league is "not going to be Ray Rice'd again" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/12). In Boston, Ben Volin wrote Goodell and the NFL "made their point with the six-game suspension." They "covered themselves from criticism by giving Elliott a more severe punishment than they gave" Patriots QB Tom Brady for Deflategate (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/13). In Houston, Jenny Dial Creech wrote the NFL hopefully "will be consistent in doing these types of investigations and suspensions in the future." The league "did the right thing with this suspension and has to keep this going" after it "flubbed" in the past with Ray Rice and Josh Brown. The punishments "must be consistent" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/12).

GIVING ACCUSER MORE STOCK: NFL.com's Judy Battista wrote the length of the investigation "irritated plenty of people ... but it should actually be reassuring, even to players." The owners "signed up for this when the they wanted a tougher policy in the wake of the Rice fiasco." The NFL finally "seemed to put more stock in the female accuser and the evidence that backed her up than in the male player's explanations" (NFL.com, 8/11). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour wrote the "impact of the league siding with a domestic violence victim cannot be overstated." By doing a thorough investigation, the NFL "sent a message that domestic violence is to be taken seriously, and that the accused isn’t the only one who deserves the benefit of the doubt." Elliott’s suspension, and the league's "commitment to giving his accuser a fair shake, is a positive and welcome change" (USATODAY.com, 8/11). ESPNW.com's Kavitha Davidson wrote while giving Elliott's accuser the "benefit of the doubt, as so many women are not afforded, the six-game suspension might be heavy-handed, at least based on precedent." At the same time, it is "hypocritical for those of us who expressed outrage" at Rice's initial two-game suspension, saying that it was "based on the longstanding precedent of the NFL not taking violence against women seriously, to then turn around and use that same precedent to argue Elliott's punishment might be too harsh" (ESPNW.com, 8/11).

STILL GAUGING PR REACTION: Deadspin's Diana Moskovitz said Elliott's suspension shows that NFL officials are still "making it up as they go along." Moskovitz said, "Every time they seem to show us a different system, a different type of analysis, a different evidentiary standard. Every time they are bringing in experts to help them weigh in on what they should do. ... I still cannot even tell you how the NFL decides beyond Roger Goodell puts his finger in the wind to see which way the PR wind is blowing and makes a decision that will cover his butt” ("E:60," ESPN, 8/13). NBC's Mike Florio: "The NFL has wandered into this territory to avoid negative PR." He said the suspension is a "direct byproduct of what happened to Ray Rice." Florio: "That made it clear from this point forward, PR takes over. ... We have to view everything the NFL is doing here from that perspective of, how much of this is PR driven and how much of it is getting to the truth" ("PFT Live," NBCSN, 8/14).

LEAGUE NOT ABOVE QUESTION: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell wrote there are "bones to pick with the NFL’s process in this matter, which can be flushed out during Elliott’s appeal." As well-intentioned as the league’s domestic violence policy "may be, players can be targets, too, because of the very get-tough policy the league was compelled to institute in the wake" of the Rice fiasco. Elliott’s reps "allege that the NFL 'cherry picked' some evidence while ignoring other key evidence." Considering some other cases in recent years, the NFL is "not above question when it comes to process, motivation and conclusions." Something "apparently happened, as the league concluded," between Elliott and Tiffany Thompson, that "left the league little choice beyond the six-game suspension" (USATODAY.com, 8/12).
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