The NFL issued a six-game suspension to Ezekiel Elliott following a lengthy investigation into domestic violence allegations made against the Cowboys running back last year. On Tuesday Elliott filed an official appeal of the ruling, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Elliott’s appeal will be heard by Harold Henderson instead of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Henderson, a former NFL executive vice president, has previously heard appeals from Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson, and will hear Elliott’s on Aug. 29.
The NFLPA announced the appeal shortly thereafter:
Elliott was accused of domestic violence by a former girlfriend in July 2016. She alleged that Elliott had abused her on several occasions over a five-day period. Elliott was not arrested or charged with any crime and he has denied any accusations from the beginning.
After the suspension was handed down, Elliott’s lawyers issued a statement that said, “The NFL’s findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it ‘cherry picks’ so called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evidence.”
The league determined during the course of its investigation that it was likely Elliott had been violent toward the woman. In a letter to Elliott detailing the reasons behind the decision, the league said its decision had not been based on the testimony of any single person.
Instead, the league’s special counsel for conduct, B. Todd Jones, wrote that the "photographic, medical, testimonial, and other evidence that is sufficiently credible in the commissioner's judgment to establish the facts, even allowing for concerns you and your representatives have advanced about the complaining witness's credibility."
Part of Elliott’s strategy will be to challenge the credibility of his accuser, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Elliott’s appeal will also address his former girlfriend’s threats to ruin his career and misleading testimony to one of the league’s investigators, Lisa Friel, according to the Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill Jr.
The suspension could be upheld or reduced. If that’s the case, Elliott could file a federal lawsuit and ask for an injunction. If granted, he could play until the lawsuit is resolved. But with the Cowboys set to kick off the season on Sept. 10 against the Giants, there’s not much time for Elliott to set that in motion.
The league does have the latitude under its personal conduct policy to suspend players regardless of whether they have been charged with a crime. Elliott’s six-game suspension is the baseline number of games players are supposed to serve for physical violence toward a woman.