The NFL is fighting back against a lawsuit filed by suspended Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and the NFL Players Association that alleges a league-orchestrated conspiracy to hide critical information exonerating Elliott.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Friday that “the suit is an uncontested Hail Mary.”
The crux of the lawsuit alleges that the NFL effectively silenced lead investigator Kia Roberts, who, according to the suit, testified during the appeals hearing that she recommended no discipline for Elliott after finding Tiffany Thompson,who has accused him of domestic violence over a span of days in July 2016, not credible.
Elliott’s representatives specifically pointed to Lisa Friel, NFL senior vice president and special counsel for investigations, for allegedly muzzling Roberts.
The NFLPA filed suit in federal district court in Plano on Thursday night. On Friday, The Associated Press reported that attorneys for Elliott and the players’ union filed for a temporary restraining order to vacate an upcoming ruling by arbitrator Harold Henderson on Elliott’s six-game suspension, allowing Elliott to play until the case is resolved in the courts. The hearing for the case is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The attorneys said in the request filed Friday that they believe Henderson will reject the appeal. The hearing on the appeal ended Thursday.
The AP reported that if Henderson affirms any part of the suspension, Elliott will need U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant to grant the restraining order to be eligible for the season opener Sept. 10 against the New York Giants. Mazzant is based in Sherman, about 65 miles north of Dallas. The suit was filed in the Eastern District of Texas. The Cowboys have their headquarters in Frisco.
During his Friday radio show on KRLD/105.3 FM The Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continued to say little on subject.
“There’s a lot here and there has been. ... I’m going to really reserve my comments,” Jones said. “ ... I thought the best thing for me to do during this period of time is not to comment.
“When this thing gets to a point where I can, believe me, I’ll be commenting and I’ve got a lot to say. But, right now, the best thing to do is not say.”
Jones confirmed that what has come to light, according to sources, from the NFL’s investigation is why he felt that Elliott would not be suspended.
Meanwhile, ESPN reported that the Cowboys have filed in court a declaration of support of the NFLPA’s motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.
Cowboys general counsel Jason Cohen wrote that Elliott’s six-game suspension would “cause the Cowboys irreparable harm” and “will hurt our team’s chances of having a successful season and making it to the 2017-2018 NFL playoffs and hopefully the Super Bowl,” ESPN reported.
Elliott’s attorneys hope to exploit in federal court procedural errors that Roberts’ recommendation didn’t make it into the final investigative report and that she wasn’t involved in the decision making, even though she was the point person in fact-finding regarding the accuser.
The AP reported that NFL spokesman McCarthy disputed the claim on Roberts. McCarthy said commissioner Roger Goodell knew of Roberts’ contention that Elliott’s accuser wasn’t credible before deciding to suspend Elliott.
“That Kia Roberts’ information was not provided to others, that’s categorically false,” McCarthy said, according to the AP. “Her views were represented. The commissioner was aware of her views, aware of many other people’s views.”
The lawsuit cited the fundamental unfairness by arbitrator Henderson and the league for refusing a request for Thompson to testify at the hearing, thus denying Elliott the opportunity to confront his accuser. Elliott appeared before the arbitrator and gave strong credible testimony denying any wrongdoing, the suit said.
Henderson did not grant the request to have the accuser testify. He also did not provide Elliott or the union with the investigative notes of the six times Thompson was interviewed by the NFL.
The third deprival of fairness, the lawsuit alleged, was the arbitrator’s refusal to compel the testimony of Goodell, who imposed Elliott’s discipline.
Without testimony from the commissioner, according to the suit, it was not possible to determine the full impact of the conspiracy.
When the league suspended Elliott on Aug. 11, following a 13-month investigation into claims made by Thompson, it concluded that there was “substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”
This report has information from The Associated Press.