The NFL Players Association announced Tuesday that it filed an appeal of the six-game suspension handed to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott by the NFL. The punishment stems from accusations of domestic violence from July 2016, a couple months prior to Elliott’s NFL debut.
In the 24 hours since Elliott announced an appeal, the NFLPA and NFL have traded barbs and accused each other of lies and deceitful behavior on Twitter.
The NFL struck first Wednesday:
But to understand how the NFL reached the point that it accused the NFLPA of victim blaming, we have to first rewind the clock a little bit. Early Wednesday morning, Yahoo! Sports published a report that said Elliott’s accuser, an ex-girlfriend, spoke to a friend via text about the possibility of blackmailing the running back with sex videos involving herself and Elliott.
Yahoo’s report does not refute that domestic violence occurred, but claims that the texts were in a 160-page document prepared by the NFL as part of lengthy investigation that lasted about a year.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the text messages will be a central part of the appeal game plan for the NFLPA on behalf of Elliott.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com also reported Monday that Elliott once filed a report with the Frisco (Texas) Police Department accusing his ex-girlfriend of harassment after he received “50-plus” phone calls from her.
The NFL’s statement Wednesday seemingly accuses the NFLPA of leaking the information regarding the motivations of Elliott’s accuser to discredit her. The NFLPA responded about an hour and a half later:
The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this statement. pic.twitter.com/OFOGQY91Ai— NFLPA (@NFLPA) August 16, 2017
Three minutes later, the NFLPA tweeted again, asking the NFL “Where are the receipts?” The tweet was deleted, but appeared to challenge the NFL to prove that the NFLPA is at fault for “spreading derogatory information.”
The nasty, public name-calling between the NFL and NFLPA probably has little to do with Elliott. Instead it’s a reflection of a power struggle that also played out during appeals of suspensions for Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson.
“They don't know what they're doing,” NFLPA president Eric Winston said Wednesday, via ESPN. “And that's what I think everyone is upset about.”
The NFL and NFLPA are a few years away from negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement when the current one expires in 2021. With the possibility of a lockout and the certainty of a difficult labor battle on the horizon, neither side wants to take a back step during power struggles like the punishment of Elliott.
The hearing for Elliott’s appeal is scheduled for Aug. 29, and it’s possible the nastiness between the NFL and NFLPA regarding the case is just beginning.