We should probably start here: The NFL did not wantto suspend Ezekiel Elliott. He’s one of the league’s best players, a true rising star. He plays for one of the league’s most popular – and storied – franchises, which should have been in line to potentially make a Super Bowl run. And Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones happens to be the most visible – and loudest – owner in the NFL, and he’s already dug in publicly and repeatedly expressed his belief that Elliott wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – be suspended.
The running back also faces no legal charges. It could have been easy for the NFL to let this all fade away … just as Jones was overtly pressuring them to do. To say: Well, in the end, we just couldn’t prove it.
So imagine how compelling the evidence must have been for the league to suspend Elliott for six games, and to do so with a resounding message.
You can read the full, devastating letter sent to Elliott right here.
Six games isn’t nearly enough, of course, if the NFL has rock-solid proof, which clearly it believes it does because there’s a chance the league will end up defending its decision in court.
That being the case, how is it that Jerry Jones was so wrong about Elliott? He’s defended him from the beginning and – as the most influential owner in the league – undoubtedly had the ability to stay abreast of the ongoing (it lasted 13 months!) investigation had he chosen to do so.
It may be that Jones was simply defending his player because that’s what football men do. Part of the code.
Or, as one Dallas Morning News columnist suggested, he was merely trying to preemptively sway public opinion to make fans believe that any punishment would be too harsh.
Either of those scenarios would make Jones a truly callous and despicable human being. Sheltering a man who used physical force against a woman is the sort of behavior that should lead people to boycott games, or for other owners to possibly blackball Jones.
Ezekiel Elliott, according to the NFL, hurt a woman on multiple occasions. Jerry Jones has been running cover for him for a year.
This thing is going to spiral into a total mess now, of course. It won’t be nearly as funny as Deflategate, though, since that dealt with something silly and this deals with a true scourge on our society.
But Jones is probably going to fight it.
And Elliott’s father has vowed to do the same:
This all comes just a week after Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which he threw himself a lavish party. Often praised for being brash and bold, he now seems mostly craven. He’s never been afraid to give players second chances (if he thinks they can help his team win) and of course there is merit to that. People deserve that benefit of the doubt. More so they deserve to be helped.
It’s difficult to believe that if Jones so publicly backed Elliott, so fervently declared his innocence, that the Cowboys ever took any honest steps to help their clearly troubled young star.
Elliott has had a string of public disturbances even beyond the violence that led to this suspension. None were ever enough to bring charges, though, and the Cowboys repeatedly treated them like youthful indiscretions. Star players get that treatment. Reserve kick returners don’t – they sometimes get cut for being arrested for something they didn’t even do.
I hope now that Elliott realizes how far he has strayed so that he will get the professional help he needs – and gets it.
But I also fear that Jones will bring him into the bunker, declare it all a witch hunt and then in Week 7 Elliott’s return will be seen as “triumphant” by Cowboys fans. It seems inevitable – based on how Jones and Elliott’s family have postured so far – that the running back’s return will be positioned much like Brady’s was: as if he’s on a righteous mission to help the Cowboys achieve redemption by playing the game well.
Here, though, there is no chance for redemption. All our tropes for sports teams and athletes must be snipped. There’s only finding a way to try to move forward slowly, perhaps someday to use the Cowboys’ incredible platform to speak out against the widespread horror of domestic violence.
Though as of now neither Jones nor Elliott appear to understand any of that.
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