With the aftermath of Tom Brady’s Deflategate only one season in the rearview mirror, no one could blame NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for crossing his fingers he wouldn’t have to deal with another high-profile disciplinary case for awhile. Sorry, Commish, but America’s favorite sport hasn’t logged a single official game in the 2017 season and already we have a six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys star running back, Ezekiel Elliott. Shall we call it Zekegate?
Here’s the serious background.
Ezekiel, or Zeke, was accused by a former girlfriend of domestic assault about a year ago. Police investigated, decided there was not enough evidence to pursue charges, and let the matter drop. But the wrangling wasn’t over. Goodell assigned investigators to dig into the matter and see if there had been a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. There is no requirement of official charges to be found guilty of that by the NFL.
Long story short, Goodell’s office swung the ax last week and barred Zeke from playing in the first six games of the season. Though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and assorted players have put on a strong face to the press and fans, mumbling about their depth at running back, it doesn’t take a football scholar to deduce that losing the league’s leading rusher for almost half a season is a serious blow to a team that has high hopes of a deep playoff run.
With Zeke’s stated intention to appeal the suspension, we have the prospect of dirty laundry about to be aired. That’s where Zekegate departs from Deflategate. With the latter, we were talking about the amount of air in a football and whether or not the quarterback had something to do with its under-inflation during a playoff game. The former hinges on a real live human being, Ms. Tiffany Thompson, who alleges that she was physically assaulted.
When Zeke’s troubles came to light, the NFL was still smarting from the fallout of a bungled response to an incident where Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice essentially knocked out his fiancee’ (now wife) with a punch. The whole thing was even caught on video. Goodell’s team didn’t want to be on the wrong side of public opinion again in a domestic violence case.
The veracity of Thompson has been called into question in some quarters and mounting a campaign against his accuser’s truthfulness is liable to be Zeke’s legal team’s strategy. There may be something to work with here. Columbus, Ohio, prosecutors declined to prosecute the case originally due to “conflicting and inconsistent information.” And late word has surfaced that Thompson exchanged texts with a friend regarding the feasibility of blackmailing her running back/boyfriend in return for not leaking sex tapes to the public.
All this means Roger Goodell better stock up on the Tylenol, because the suspension levied against Ezekiel Elliott is not the final word. Not by a long shot. If Elliott follows in Tom Brady’s footsteps, he may sue the league and ask to have his case heard in an actual court of law. One thing is certain. We haven’t heard the last of this.
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