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The NFLPA filed a request on Thursday to block any suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, according to reports.
Elliott, who was handed a six-game suspension by the NFL in August for domestic violence allegations, is seeking to have the suspension overturned by claiming there was a “league-wide conspiracy … to hide critical information” in the league’s investigation.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano, Kia Wright Roberts, the NFL’s director of investigations, was the only NFL employee to interview Tiffany Thompson, Elliott’s accuser. Roberts testified that she would not have recommended discipline against Elliott due to doubts about Thompson’s credibility.
However, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Roberts was excluded from a June 26 meeting in which investigators presented evidence to four independent outside experts who made recommendations to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Roberts was not available to share her recommendation that Elliott not be suspended.
Additionally, according to Florio, Lisa Friel, the NFL special counsel for investigations, allegedly told Goodell in a separate meeting that there was sufficient evidence to suspend Elliott. Roberts was reportedly not present at that meeting either.
According to ESPN, the NFLPA and Elliott’s petition states:
“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.”
As Florio states, the latest development in an already ugly case is likely to make the entire situation even uglier. The NFLPA petition comes after the union and Elliott already planned to call into question Thompson’s credibility. The league and players union had already sparred over the matter in a series of tweets.
Additionally, the NFLPA argued that Elliott never got the chance to question Thompson’s credibility in a cross-examination, thus keeping the arbitrator from making a fair ruling.
According to Florio, if the union’s claim is accurate, Goodell may have to vacate the suspension, then re-hear the entire case, with the input of Roberts. At the very least, the matter seems a long way from being settled.