Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s strategy for appealing his six-game NFL suspension for domestic violence will involve questioning the credibility of his accuser, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
It was nearly three years ago that the nation erupted at the sight of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in an elevator. That day, Sept. 8, 2014, the nation spoke with one voice in a way it rarely does, particularly about a sports figure:
It was horrified by Rice’s violence. It demanded that he lose his job. (He did.) It was furious with the tone-deaf manner in which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handled the awful situation. Many demanded that he lose his job. (He did not.)
And it demanded that things change. No one wanted a man who hit a woman to ever be allowed to get away with it again in the NFL.
Let’s move ahead to this week. Over the past few days, with the strong and appropriate six-game suspension of alleged domestic abuser and Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, we have been given a window into just how far Goodell and the NFL have come from those terrible first days of the Rice saga.
And we have seen once again just how weak and morally bankrupt the NFL Players Association is, consistently standing by the men who hit women no matter how monstrous their behavior may be — and now even going so low as to allegedly leak details of the NFL’s 160-page investigative report intended for Elliott and the union in an effort to discredit his alleged victim.
Over the past few days, snippets of the NFL’s report that are far from flattering to the accuser have appeared in various news outlets in what appears to be a classic case of victim-shaming. The NFLPA says it is not the leaker. The NFL says it has heard from multiple members of the media that it is.
Whatever the case, it’s clear those who are working to try to help Elliott get out of some or all of his punishment are trying to discredit his accuser in the news media with information the NFL itself uncovered and put in its report. If the NFLPA isn’t actively involved in the victim-shaming, it certainly must know who is. Now would be as good a time as any to tell us.
Among the harsh details that are said to be part of Elliott’s appeal is an alleged exchange between the accuser and Elliott: “You are a black male athlete. I was a white girl. They are not going to believe you.”
Those comments, if true, are reprehensible, especially this week of all weeks in this country. If she were an NFL player, Goodell could and likely would suspend her.
But this case is not about what the accuser allegedly said. This is about what Elliott allegedly did to her.
And, most important, it’s about this: Even if she behaved badly and has inconsistencies in her story, Elliott of course still could have hit her “on multiple occasions” during the week of July 16, 2016, as the NFL investigation found. He still could have left the bruises the NFL investigation found in the photos taken of her. He still could be an abuser worthy of our scorn.
“We did in fact know about some inconsistencies in her statement and her actions,” Tonya Lovelace, CEO of The Women of Color Network, Inc. and one of the four members of the NFL’s external expert advisory panel on the Elliott case, said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
“At the end of the day, this is consistent with victims of domestic violence, particularly when they see the odds stacked against them. It’s not uncommon to be inconsistent or to not remember things. But even if she didn’t tell the truth on everything, that does not exclude her from being a victim, and I came to the conclusion that Mr. Elliott engaged in multiple acts of violence against (her).”
The campaign to discredit Elliott’s accuser serves a valuable purpose for the NFLPA and other members of Elliott’s team: it gives web sites juicy new material and pushes all the terrible details of Elliott’s behavior into the background, at least for a few days. It almost makes us forget that dreadful video from this past St. Patrick’s Day in Dallas that shows Elliott pulling down a woman’s shirt, exposing her breast to the public.
Tell me, America, how many of you could get away with that without losing your job or being suspended? Lucky Ezekiel Elliott: the NFL decided that stunt added no additional time to his suspension.
One would think the NFLPA might acknowledge Elliott got away with one there and sit down with the league to work on punishing a young man who clearly needs to learn some lessons. But no. For the NFLPA, it’s business as usual, back to the knee-jerk reaction of defending the indefensible, as if the Rice saga never occurred at all.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Christine Brennan on Twitter @cbrennansports.