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As NFL and NFLPA square off, Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal will argue ex-girlfriend threatened to ruin his career

Ezekiel Elliott is entering his second season with the Cowboys, after leading the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Ezekiel Elliott and his lawyers officially appealed his six-game suspension Tuesday, the NFL Players Association announced. According to reports Monday, that appeal will be based, at least in part, on repeated threats, one of which allegedly was racial, that Elliott’s legal team says his ex-girlfriend made to ruin his career. On Wednesday, a statement from the NFL showed how the league and the players’ union were squaring off.

“Over the past few days we’ve received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media about the victim in [the] Ezekiel Elliott discipline case. It’s a common tactic to attempt to prove the innocence of the accused by discrediting the victim — in this case Ms. [Tiffany] Thompson — when coming forward to report such abuse. Common or not, these tactics are shameful. Efforts to shame and blame victims are often what prevent people from coming forward to report violence and/or seek help in the first place.”

Wednesday afternoon, the NFLPA responded with a statement of their own, saying “The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this statement. We know the League office has a history of being exposed for its lack of credibility. This is another example of the NFL’s hypocrisy on display and an attempt to create a sideshow to distract from their own failings in dealing with such serious issues. They should be ashamed for stooping to new lows.”

In a letter sent last week to Elliott, the NFL said its punishment rested on evidence that he “engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.” According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which reported Monday obtaining documents related to the appeal, Elliott intends to argue that Thompson only decided to go to police alleging domestic violence after he barred her from his 21st birthday party.

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The Star-Telegram reported the following threats Elliott said Thompson made against him on the night of Saturday, July 21, 2016, and the following early-morning hours:

• After being told Elliott didn’t want her at his house that night and he didn’t want her coming out with him, Thompson responded, “Ok this is what you want? Ok then, I’m going to ruin your life. You will see. If I was you, I wouldn’t go out tonight.”

• After being told she couldn’t come to Elliott’s 21st birthday party, Thompson told him, “that’s worst decision you made in your life. I’m going to ruin you life now.”

• In a text message, Thompson told Elliott: “You better be smart. And not be a dumb man. B—-, keep (messing) with the wrong, b—-.”

• After being barred from the after-party, Thompson was heard yelling and screaming that “your career is over” and then called police.

• Elliott is also “100 percent certain” that Thompson told him on July 22, “You are a black male athlete. I’m a white girl. They are not going to believe you.”

Yahoo reported on Wednesday that it had obtained documents showing that the accuser admitted to NFL investigators having a text exchange in which she discussed leveraging sex videos of her with Elliott in exchange for money from the running back. The text exchange, part of a 160-page report, details a purported exchange between Thompson and a friend in which the friend allegedly suggested, “we could black mail him w[ith] that.” Thompson allegedly replied, “I want to bro.” The NFL’s report also says that admitted registering the email address “ezekielelliott sex vids” in August 2016.

The running back’s father, Stacy Elliott, tweeted an image of the Star-Telegram’s report and wrote, “My son’s legal team is ready to fight!”

A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 29 before Harold Henderson, who has been designated to serve as arbitrator in the place of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Elliott’s legal team is reportedly set to remind the league that a friend of Thompson’s said in September she was asked by the accuser to corroborate a false story about Elliott forcibly dragging Thompson out of a car on July 22. In addition, per the Star-Telegram, the attorneys plan to argue that NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel “was unable to give an clear endorsement of Thompson’s credibility because she repeatedly misled investigators.”

Police in Columbus, Ohio, where the alleged incidents of abuse took place, declined to press charges, and Elliott said in a recent statement, “I strongly disagree with the League’s findings.” He added, “I admit that I am far from perfect, but I plan to continue to work very hard, on and off the field, to mature and earn the great opportunity that I have been given.”

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“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,” attorneys for Elliott said in a news release last week. “ … During the upcoming weeks and through this appeal a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light.”

In its letter, the NFL said that its findings were “based on a combination of 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.” The league noted that the Columbus prosecutor said of Thompson that his office “generally believed her for all of the incidents.”

The NFL also pointed to an incident at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas, where Elliott was filmed pulling down a woman’s shirt in public, exposing and touching her breast. “When viewed together with the July incidents, it suggests a pattern of poor judgment and behavior for which effective intervention is necessary for your personal and professional welfare,” the letter said.

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