Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s fight to get his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy reduced or eliminated will begin in earnest Tuesday with an official appeal to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The basis of Elliott’s appeal will hinge partly on the testimony of ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson and her threats to “ruin his career,” including one that was racially based, according to sources.
Thompson’s domestic violence accusations from July 22, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio, are at the root of the NFL suspension.
Elliott, who was not arrested nor charged in the case, continues to maintain his innocence.
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The Columbus city prosecutor said he didn’t believe that he could make a case because of conflicting and inconsistent information.
But following an extensive investigation during the past year, the NFL announced Elliott’s suspension Friday, saying it has photo and digital evidence supporting a finding “that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”
Elliott’s appeal game plan includes highlighting Thompson’s already chronicled text messages encouraging a friend to lie to police about an alleged domestic assault on July 22, misleading testimony to NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel, and repeated threats to ruin his career after breaking off the relationship, per documents obtained by the Star-Telegram.
Among the quoted threats:
▪ After being told Elliott didn’t want her at his house on July 21 and he didn’t want her coming out with him, Thompson responded with: “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 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.”
▪ The report also details a text message in which Thompson told Elliott: “You better be smart. And not be a dumb man. B----, keep (messing) with the wrong, b----.”
▪ After not being allowed into the after party, Thompson was heard yelling and screaming that “your career is over” and then proceeded to call the 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.”
Per the documents, Friel was unable to give an clear endorsement of Thompson’s credibility because she repeatedly misled investigators.
The above threats were made on July 21 and the early morning of July 22, the date Thompson called police accusing Elliott of assaulting her while they were in a parked vehicle.
Text messages reveal she also asked a friend, Ayrin Mason, to lie about the alleged assault July 22.
The NFL acknowledges that Thompson wasn’t truthful about the alleged July 22 assault, which sparked the entire investigation.
But the NFL says it believes Elliott committed domestic violence against Thompson on three previous days that week.
On July 17, the NFL says, Elliott attacked Thompson at the Canvasback Lane apartments in Columbus, Ohio, causing injuries to her arms, neck and shoulders.
On July 19, the NFL says, there was another altercation at the Canvasback Lane apartments, causing injuries to her face, arms, wrist and hands.
On July 21, the NFL says, Elliott injured her face, neck, arms, knee and hips.
Elliott doesn’t deny being in the same apartment with Thompson during that week and says another male friend stayed with them the majority of the time, per a source.
Elliott denies that any domestic violence took place.
What remains unclear and what seems to be at the root of the discrepancy is why Thompson didn’t call police after the earlier assaults.
And why she waited until Elliott broke off the relationship and after she was barred from his birthday party to accuse him of the assault on July 22 and to follow through with her threats to ruin his career by calling the police.
Elliott, who has not talked to the media since the start of training camp, was escorted from the locker room following Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams.
But he made his feelings known on Twitter on Friday, saying he was “both surprised and disappointed by the NFL’s decision today, and I strongly disagree with the league’s findings.”
His representatives also blasted the NFL in a statement Friday for their “factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions” and promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” during the appeal.
It’s unclear what role Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will play in the appeal. But a source says Jones is “angry” about the suspension after being adamant that, after reviewing all of the league’s evidence, no assault occurred and Elliott would not be be disciplined.
Jones also has uncharacteristically not spoken with the media since the suspension.