by Dillon Meehan
No issue has been as prevalent in the zeitgeist of NFL fans for the past few years, quite as much as domestic violence has. For years it was often ignored while some of the sports biggest stars got away with often horrifying crimes. Luckily, that is no longer the case.
However, the past five years have also shown that the new collective bargaining agreement, which gave Commissioner Robert Goodell power to act as judge, jury and executioner for all league punishments, has been an absolute failure.
This is one of the main reasons the Ezekiel Elliott investigation is so polarizing. The alleged evidence against Elliot is damning. The photos that show his now ex-girlfriend’s neck and arm covered in bruises from the alleged July 2016 incident are horrifying. The video of Elliot groping another woman at a bar shows repeated behavior.
On the other side, there are multiple investigations that show complete incompetence. There was the original SpyGate investigation which saw the NFL destroy all of the evidence at Gillette stadium. There was the Ray Rice investigation which essentially spawned today’s domestic violence coverage after the attempted coverup. And then there was the debacle that was DeflateGate, which saw the NFL actively try to tarnish arguably it’s most famous player ever, despite no evidence.
It is safe to say that Goodell and the NFL’s credibility is at an all time low.
When the suspension was handed down on August 11th, a six-week suspension made sense, that is the standard given out for domestic violence incidents. There is a high chance that Elliot is guilty, when factoring in the alleged evidence. But the alarming fact is that his guilt or innocence is technically irrelevant to the NFL. Goodell doesn’t need indisputable evidence, there is no “innocent until proven guilty,” the NFL is not a court of law.
And a lawsuit can’t change that, Elliot didn’t receive a temporary restraining order because he may be innocent, it was simply because Judge Amos Mazzant III believed that Elliot did not have a fair hearing.
The fact of the matter is that NFL has been investigating the issue for over a year, and during the entire painstakingly slow process, not one person on their legal team thought how to prevent this exact type of thing from happening.
The NFL has now appealed Mazzant’s ruling, however, Elliot can still play this season until a higher court rules on the appealed decision. And many legal experts suspect that it won’t be ruled on until late 2017, or even 2018. If that holds true, that NFL will have yet another lawsuit involving of it’s star players, on arguably the most popular team in the league, for the second time in three years.
The NFL’s continued lack of self awareness and consistent inability to offer fair trials can lead to many fans having sympathy for Elliot, who despite his alleged disgusting behavior, is being considered a victim in some circles. A commissioner who has been publicly lambasted for not caring about domestic violence, is now so bad at it being criticized for doing the exact thing he has been asked to do by fans for years.