Ezekiel Elliot gambles NFL future and it could be the end for Roger Goodell

Ezekiel Elliot is appealing his six game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. If he fails, Elliot’s career might be over before it starts. If he succeeds, it might be the death knell that finally takes down the much maligned NFL commissioner.

“Ok this is what you want? Ok then, I’m going to ruin your life. You will see,” texted Ezekiel Elliot’s former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. According to documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Based on the entire record, the credible evidence establishes that on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016, you used physical force against Ms. Thompson resulting in her injury,” said the NFL In a letter to Elliott advising him of the league’s decision to suspend Elliot.

Who is right? Elliot? Or The NFL? That’s not to discount what Thompson is going through. The statistics on domestic violence are startling. If true, by coming forward she has already done what most victims of domestic violence won’t. The Columbus prosecutor’s office did not pursue the claims due to “Conflicting and inconsistent information across all incidents resulting in concern regarding the sufficiency of the evidence to support the filing of criminal charges.” The NFL came to a different conclusion.

 

 

On Monday, Elliot announced he would file his appeal of the league’s ruling that he violated its personal conduct policy. Unlike most athletes when they face suspension, the Dallas running back isn’t asking for a reduced sentence. Elliot is rather fighting the ruling altogether. By doing so, the former Ohio State standout is opening a can of worms that could lead to Elliot ruining his image and potentially his career.

By choosing to focus on Thompson’s texts and alleged inconsistent testimony he is walking a tightrope between clearing his name and continuing a long sordid tradition of abusers and spectators engaging in “victim shaming.”  If his allegations prove to be false, there is only one way to look at him. Not only will the dark cloud of domestic violence follow him at every turn, he will also have to deal with his decision to slander a victim of a horrendous crime. This is an all or nothing decision.

Unlike Tom Brady’s fight with the NFL, this is domestic violence, with a decades-long history of minimizing and erasing the claims and visibility of its victims. If Elliot fails, he’ll be viewed as a man who tried to use his power and influence to make abuse disappear and in the process ruin a young woman’s life.

If he’s vindicated, however, there’s no reason not to suggest Goodell’s time as commissioner will be all but done.

Since Goodell botched the Ray Rice case in 2014, the commissioner has watched controversy after controversy come in his doors and reappear out the other end worse than before. Like a 2-year-old who got a hold of the peanut butter with the lid removed.

2014 – The NFL initially suspends Ray Rice for two games. Video comes out of him brutally knocking out his future-wife. The NFL asks for a redo and suspends him indefinitely. Rice appeals and a neutral arbitrator rules that Goodell lied and reinstates Rice. Rice never plays again.

2015 – DeflateGate – Goodell’s Tom Brady witch hunt and subsequent public shame for his mishandling of the entire fiasco.

2016 – Goodell suspends kicker Josh Brown one game for domestic violence. A complete contradiction to his own domestic violence policy he revealed following his bungling of the Rice case. Also, for the first time in what seems like forever, NFL ratings decline. The NFL tries every possible excuse to explain the decline.

That’s three straight years of MAJOR controversy. A more competent commissioner would have diffused each impending bomb. Look at how NBA commissioner Adam Silver handled Donald Sterling’s scandal. Somehow, though, Goodell has been able to stay alive.

Goodell is making an enemy of an influential owner for the second straight year. It is what makes this situation unique. Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones is reportedly furious with the league’s decision. Jones said last month that he had seen no evidence of domestic violence.

Jones is arguably the most powerful man in the NFL. Before DeflateGate, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Jones probably shared that title. Now the two most respected and powerful men in the business can commiserate together.

Also, I’ve watched enough movies to know wronged men of power–self-conceived or otherwise–will stop at nothing to exact their revenge. Kraft’s relationship with Goodell is non-existent. Likely headed that way as well is Jones. If you add New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson (BountyGate), Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and Los Angeles Chargers CEO Dean Spanos (both were extremely upset with Goodell’s decision to go with Stan Kroenke’s plan for an Inglewood stadium in Los Angeles), you now have over 15% of the league’s ownership group with an axe to grind. Who can’t see the five getting together to take down someone who is entirely vulnerable?

Which is to say, it would be ironic if Goodell’s (potential) overreach in a domestic violence case in 2017 would be his downfall considering his failure to police it properly in the past.