Ezekiel Elliott: Abuse, Suspensions and Lawsuits
What you need to know in a Spoonful:
Tiffany Thompson’s Story
Tiffany Thompson, a student at Ohio State University, was romantically involved with Ezekiel Elliot in August of 2015. She claims they were a couple, at one point even living together. She also alleges that Elliott physically abused her on multiple occasions during their relationship with the first case being in November of 2015. She called the police on past instances of abuse and produced pictures of bruising she claims was given to her by Elliott. The event of abuse that the NFL is investigating happened the week of July 13-22, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Story
Elliott denies that they were exclusive in their relationship and also denies ever living together. He says he tried to break off all romantic involvement with her the week of the event and she threatened him multiple times saying “This is the worst decision you made in your life. I’m going to ruin your life” (60). There are witness that corroborate this claim saying she threatened to “ruin him”. Elliott also asserts that the bruises she received were cause by a fight she had at a bar the same night the police were called. There are witness to second. Text messages between Thompson and a friend show she told people to lie for her to back up her story of abuse to the police (63).
The NFL’s Response
The NFL, immediately after learning about the July 22nd incident, opened an investigation as to whether Elliott violated the Personal Conduct Policy that is part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The investigation was led by Kia Roberts the Director of Investigations for the NFL and Lisa Friel, Special Counsel for Investigations for the NFL. On June 26, 2017 the Investigation was brought to the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. Curiously, Roberts was not present for this meeting. Roberts is the one who did most of the interviews for the report and she did not find Thompson and her accusations of abuse credible. Friel, by contrast, did believe there was enough evidence to suspend Elliott.
On August 11, 2017 Roger Goodell announced a 6 game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. Reports show that he was especially pressured by other owners to come down hard on Elliott. But it is also fair to assume the unusually pressure could be in response to a growing concern by media and fans toward domestic violence and Goodell wanted to be seen as coming down hard on abusers. After the botching of the Ray Rice incident in 2014, 6 games became the baseline for first time offenders of domestic violence. The suspension was set to begin September 2nd.
Appeal and Lawsuit
The NFLPA (Nation Football League Players Association) immediately filed a lawsuit in federal court before their appeal of the suspension by the NFL was concluded. They filed arguing that the NFL’s discipline of Elliott was unfair based on 3 examples. First, Roberts, who had doubts about Thompson’s accusations, was not invited to the meeting with Goodell; second, the NFLPA was denied access to four of Thompson’s interviews; and thirdly, the NFLPA was not allowed to talk to Goodell.
On September 8th The judge ruled, “the Court finds, that Elliott did not receive a fundamentally fair hearing.” . This allowed Elliott to continue playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFL appealed the ruling and it now rests with 5th Circuit Court of appeals which has a very low reversal rate.
The 5th Circuit Rules and Federal Judge grants Temporary Restraining Order.
On Thursday, October 13th, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Ezekiel Elliott and the NFLPA. The ruling allows the NFL to enforce their 6- game suspension on Elliott. Elliott is thereby suspended until November 30th. The ruling was by a 2-1 margin.
On Tuesday, October 17th a Federal judge granted a temporary restraining order on the grounds of “Basic Unfairness”. The Restraining Order will last until October 30th allowing Elliott to practice and play in the next two games.
Basic Timeline of Events
January 13, 2015: Ezekiel Elliott and Tiffany Thompson meet
August 2015: Elliott and Thompson become intimately involved
November 2015: First alleged incident of domestic violence
April 28, 2016: Elliott is drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott and Thompson attended the event together.
June 20 2016: They break off their romantic relationship
July 13-22, 2016: Thompson alleges multiple acts of domestic abuse ranging from being thrown from a bed to being dragged out of a car. (These are the incidents the NFL was investigating)
July 21 2016: Thompson threatens “This is the worst decision you made in your life. I’m going to ruin your life,” which is corroborated by witnesses.
July 22, 2016: the NFL begins its investigation
September 6, 2016: Columbus City Attorney Office announces it will not prosecute Elliott for July 22 incident.
June 26, 2017: Investigation is brought before the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
August 11, 2017: Roger Goodell suspends Elliott for 6 games.
August 15, 2017: Elliott appeals the suspension to Harold Henderson
August 31, 2017: NFLPA file a lawsuit claiming the investigation and punishments were unfair.
September 5, 2017: Henderson upholds NFL’s suspension of 6 games.
September 8, 2017: Texas judge rules in favor or the NFLPA and Elliott claim that the investigation was unfair and is allowed to play football.
September 11, 2017: NFL files appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
October 12, 2017: 5th Court rules in favor of the NFL. 6-game suspension is reinstated.
October 17, 2017: Judge Paul Crotty granted a temporary restraining order until October 30th.
October 30, 2017: League is order to appear before Katherine Polk Failla, the presiding judge.
Really interest in this story? The Sports Esquire has an in-depth look at this story from a legal standpoint.