Ezekiel Elliott’s representatives may have uncovered the evidence that will get their client’s suspension reduced or vacated.
The appeal hearing for Elliott, who was suspended six games by the NFL earlier this month for violating the league’s policy on personal conduct, concluded on Thursday after 25 hours of testimony (it began on Monday). It is now up to arbitrator Harold Henderson whether to uphold Elliott’s six-game punishment after being accused of domestic violence against former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson, reduce it, or vacate it.
Citing a source, Clarence Hill of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reported this major evidence in Elliott’s favor was uncovered during the hearing: following interviews with Thompson, NFL lead investigator Kia Roberts recommended that Elliott not be suspended, which Roberts testified to during the hearing.
It was Roberts’ recommendation that Elliott not receive a suspension that led to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressing confidence at the start of training camp that his star back would be cleared by the league; Hill wrote that Jones was told by an NFL executive that Elliott would not be suspended.
Roberts’ recommendation was not part of the NFL’s final report or the suspension letter sent to Elliott and made public by the NFL; instead, the report focused on the league’s findings of three times where Elliott was allegedly abusive toward Thompson, citing the victim’s testimony and photographic evidence she provided.
Further, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held a meeting to discuss Elliott’s discipline, it did not include Roberts – but it included Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and general counsel, Adolpho Birch, the league vice president of labor policy and government affairs, and Lisa Friel, senior vice president for investigations. During testimony, it was said that Friel barred Roberts, who was an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn for eight years before being hired by the NFL in 2015, from the meeting.
Those issues are what the NFL Players Association emphasized in making its case for Elliott.
It’s unknown how long it will take Henderson to come to a decision, though there was a report on Thursday afternoon that he is being pressured to do so by Monday, and that the expectation is Elliott’s suspension will be reduced.
After several embarrassing attempts, it seemed like the NFL finally took its time with the Elliott investigation in an effort to get things right. But ignoring Roberts’ recommendation and keeping her out of the meeting after she was the one who spoke with the victim could hurt the NFL’s case.