Here’s something to chew on: How will the NFL handle a domestic violence case against a bright young star on a marquee franchise? Would the league, in a season in which its TV ratings have cratered, really suspend the running back who is a prime candidate for rookie of the year and happens to play for the franchise formerly known as America’s Team?
We might soon find out how strictly the NFL implements its personal conduct policy.
It’s a conundrum that stems from a report by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora that Ezekiel Elliott “could face a lengthy suspension” because of an NFL investigation into allegations of domestic violence. A former girlfriend filed a police report last summer in Ohio in which she alleged that there had been five instances of abuse. Elliott denied the accusations and he was not charged on any of the allegations after prosecutors determined there was “conflicting and inconsistent information across all incidents resulting in concern regarding the sufficiency of the evidence to support the filing of criminal charges.”
The NFL reserves the right to investigate, too, and it is continuing to do so. It has, especially in the recent past with Tom Brady, shown no reluctance to punish star players. “Discipline,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to The Post, “will be imposed if it is warranted. The review is ongoing under the personal conduct policy.”
Under that two-year-old policy governing domestic violence incidents and allegations, which tightened after the Ray Rice fiasco, Elliott could still be suspended in the absence of charges. There is no timetable for the NFL’s investigations; its baseline policy calls for a six-game suspension for the first instance of abuse. Consideration, however, can be given to “aggravating or mitigating factors,” however, which helps explain the one-game penalty for New York Giants kicker Josh Brown last summer. He was released last week by the Giants after the league, the team and its owner were essentially shamed into making a decision on whether to keep him.
Whatever the league decides about Elliott, the backdrop will be the intense criticism Commissioner Roger Goodell and Giants owner John Mara faced when it became apparent that the punishment after Brown’s admission of incidents involving his now ex-wife did not conform to league policy.
Mara pointed out that the Giants did not know “the extent” of alleged incidents involving Brown, a comment that led many to wonder how much domestic violence is acceptable. “He’s admitted to us he’s abused his wife in the past,” Mara told WFAN, “but what I think is a little unclear is the extent of that.”
Goodell, after saying that he and the NFL would do better two years ago in the aftermath of the league’s domestic violence crisis, offered an explanation that sounded a lot like fansplaining, talking down in an effort to explain the situation.
“I understand the public’s misunderstanding of those things and how that can be difficult for them to understand how we get to those positions,” Goodell told the BBC. “But those are things that we have to do. I think it’s a lot deeper and a lot more complicated than it appears, but it gets a lot of focus.”
Elliott, the No. 4 draft pick out of Ohio State, leads the league in rushing yardage and recently met with the NFL’s investigators, USA Today reported. La Canfora reported that Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner, recently approached Lisa Friel, the former prosecutor who is the NFL’s domestic violence adviser, over the matter at an owners’ meeting. However, La Canfora reported that Friel did not respond to Jones.
Whatever happens in this case, and it may very well be that nothing is warranted, everyone will be watching closely.