A common comparison has been drawn between the NFL suspending Ezekiel Elliott for six games and how the league handled ‘Deflategate’ with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2014.
Elliott, much like Brady, has won an injunction on the pending suspension as the matter gets resolved in the legal system. But Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it is inaccurate to compare the two situations after his team’s 19-3 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Jones said the issue with Deflategate was whether Brady misrepresented information to commissioner Roger Goodell. Elliott, on the other hand, has been open and honest about his situation related to the July 2016 domestic violence allegations made against him by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson.
Elliott has maintained his innocence throughout and the Columbus, Ohio city prosectuor’s office declined to pursue charges because of misleading and inconsistent information from Thompson.
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Jones and the Cowboys have supported Elliott throughout the process that included a 13-month investigation by the NFL and subsequent suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
“[Deflategate] was about whether or not the player had misrepresented to the commissioner. We’ve got rules that say if you don’t tell the truth to the commissioner then you can get sanctioned,” Jones said. “Those are rules. That’s not the case here.
“Zeke gave them everything plus some that he needed to have here. These are different issues. This has really to do with what our league’s responsibility is given the privilege that we have as a league, then what is our responsibility to really do it in a very good and accurate or acceptable way. We certainly stand to be critiqued and examined in that area. Everybody else is. Everybody who has ever made a decision in law is.
“So why should it surprise us that when we adjudicate, or the equivalent of adjudicate, over a privilege that we’ve gotten in our relationship with players and we don’t do it in a fair way, why should it surprise anybody if we got slapped? It doesn’t surprise me. You have to be fair.”
In granting Elliott an injunction, a federal judge ruled that the arbitration process was fundamentally unfair to Elliott. Judge Amos Mazzant III particularly ripped arbitrator Harold Henderson for not making Goodell or Thompson testify at the appeals hearing, and withholding investigative notes.
Elliott is the latest in a long line of controversial investigations the NFL has conducted along with Deflategate, the Ray Rice and Josh Brown domestic violence suspensions and Bounty-Gate with the Saints.
Jones told a group of reporters he’d like to visit with them about the public opinion on these various situations.
Jones went on to say: “We work our lives, ‘Please look at us. Watch us. Watch our games. Watch our preseason preparation. Watch out training camps.’ That’s what we’ve got. We’re out here trying to create that kind of interest all the time and so when these social issues or these kinds of things come up then it shouldn’t surprise us when we’re asked to use that visibility and use that interest to basically do something for the country and society.
“Now, whether you do it in a way that is right or whether you do it in a way that is sensitive to victims, in many areas, whether it be bullying or whether it be domestic violence, well, whether you do that in a way that meets with approval then that’s hard. We certainly have room to be a lot better in the NFL in all kinds of issues regarding behavior, whether it be league, owners, players, players representatives, or the Players Association. We all need to do better.”
Jones and the Cowboys have been known for helping players with off-field issues such as Elliott get back on track. He didn’t want to go into specifics as to how the organization might help Elliott going forward, but said there are no financial constraints when it comes to having a player’s best interest at heart.
“We have a high sensitivity to helping our players throughout the organization, very high,” Jones said. “We don’t in any way, there is not enough, there is no limit financially or time-wise that we wouldn’t spend to help a player.”