Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has dropped the appeal of his domestic violence suspension and will serve the remaining five games of the six-game ban.
Elliott sat out the first game of his suspension in Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The 22-year-old will be eligible to return to the Cowboys (5-4) on Christmas Eve against the Seattle Seahawks.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Elliott for six games on August 11 after a 13-month investigation concluded he was in violation of the league’s personal-conduct policy after he was accused of domestic violence by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson. He was not arrested or charged in the case and maintains his innocence.
The second-year pro played the first eight games of the season on three different legal reprieves, the last of which allowed him to play November 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Elliott had his most recent legal motion denied by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York last Thursday, which is why he was inactive against the Falcons.
Elliott’s agents, Rocky Arceneaux and Frank Salzano, released the following statement on Wednesday:
‘In consultation with the NFLPA and his lawyers, and after careful deliberation and review of the recent Second Circuit decisions, Mr. Elliott has decided to forgo any further appeals and will serve the remaining suspension.
‘This decision arises from a practical assessment of the current legal landscape. Mr. Elliott’s desire for closure in this matter is in his best interests, as well as the best interests of his teammates, family and friends.
‘This decision is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing, and Mr. Elliott is pleased that the legal fight mounted by him and his team resulted in the disclosure of many hidden truths regarding this matter, as well public exposure of the NFL’s mismanagement of its disciplinary process.
‘Mr. Elliott will maximize this time away from the game and come back even stronger both on and off the field. He intends to release a final personal statement in the upcoming weeks and until then we have no further comment.’
The union (NFLPA) had previously asked the court to block the start of the suspension until it considers its request to overturn a lower-court ruling on the grounds that Elliott’s career will be irreparably harmed if his suspension begins now.
In response, the NFL attorneys insisted that ‘swift discipline’ should not be manipulated by players and teams seeking to strategically time court challenges so that suspensions are served when they play weaker opponents or when an injury would already require a player to remain off the field.
During the appeal process in August, Elliott denied the allegations, according to a lawsuit filed against the league. Ohio prosecutors declined to pursue the case last year, citing conflicting evidence.
The NFLPA’s lawsuit also claimed that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league executives hid information that was favorable to Elliott’s case.
‘In what may mark one of the most fundamentally unfair arbitral processes conceivable, Elliott and the Union were subjected to an arbitration process in which, among other things, there was a League-orchestrated conspiracy by senior NFL executives, including NFL Senior Vice President and Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel, to hide critical information—which would completely exonerate Elliott,’ read the NFLPA’s petition.
That lawsuit accused Friel of withholding from Goodell the word of co-lead investigator Kia Roberts, who the suit says concluded that the accuser wasn’t credible and that discipline wasn’t warranted.
‘The withholding of this critical information from the disciplinary process was a momentous denial of the fundamental fairness required in every arbitration and, of course, does not satisfy federal labor law’s minimal due process requirements,’ the lawsuit said.
The NFL had medical experts examine photos of bruising that was allegedly caused by Elliott, but the lawsuit claimed that the doctors questioned could not definitively rule that the injuries were caused by domestic violence.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been critical of Goodell’s handling of the situation and recently escalated his attacks on the Commissioner.
Jones has referred to Elliott’s suspension as an ‘overcorrection’ for Goodell, who admittedly mishandled the suspension of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice back in 2014.
Goodell first suspended Rice only two games after video emerged of the former Rutgers star dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. However, that suspension was extended indefinitely after another video was released depicting Rice striking his fiancée in the elevator.
Rice has been out of the NFL ever since.
‘Zeke is a victim of an overcorrection,’ Jones said in an October radio interview.
‘With the knowledge that I have, the circumstances aren’t treating him fair,’ Jones added.
Jones has not given a statement since Elliott dropped the appeal.
According to Elliott, Thompson intended to ‘ruin’ his life after he tried to break up with her, as reported by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
‘You are a black male athlete,’ Elliott claimed Thompson told him, according to the report. ‘I’m a white girl. They are not going to believe you.’
Elliott, playing in his second season, has rushed for 783 yards and seven touchdowns on 191 carries. The Cowboys are 5-4 and host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.