DALLAS – Noted case arbitrator Harold Henderson will hear an appeal by Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott to have a six-game suspension reduced after the football player was accused of domestic violence in a case that is pitting the NFL against its players union.
Elliott’s ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson told police the football player had assaulted her several times in Columbus, Ohio over a six-day period in July 2016. Thompson took photos of her injuries and provided them for NFL officials, who decided on the suspension, according to a press release issued by the NFL.
That move was opposed by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).
Elliott has not been charged with a crime in the case.
NFL officials in a media release accused the union of attempting to smear the credibility of the ex-girlfriend by spreading false rumors to the media.
“It’s a common tactic to prove the innocence of the accused by discrediting the victim,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said in a written statement, as reported by Law360.
The report alleged that Elliott had violated the league’s recently crafted Personal Conduct Policy for players. The policy does not require a criminal conviction and a six-game suspension is considered an average punishment for an incident of domestic violence. The NFL's press release added that “credible evidence” existed that Elliott had engaged in personal conduct that ran counter to NFL policies.
However, spokesmen for the NFLPA countered that the allegations were baseless and lacking in credibility.
“This is another example of the NFL’s hypocrisy on display,” an Aug. 16 statement from the NFLPA read. “It’s an attempt to create a sideshow to distract from their own failings in dealing with such serious issues.”
Henderson, though technically an independent investigator, formerly served as an NFL vice president for labor relations and as chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee.
NFLPA officials have challenged Henderson’s impartiality in the past. According to a post on NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk, the arbitrator has handled 87 appeals cases since 2008 and reduced suspensions such as the personal conduct case against Adrian Peterson (New Orleans Saints running back). Pro Football Talk reported that union officials have said Henderson can’t be truly independent given his former history as an NFL official.
Elliott, formerly a standout player with Ohio State University, was drafted by the Cowboys in 2016 and ran for 1,600 yards as an NFL rushing leader in his rookie season, helping the team reach the playoffs.