As everyone in and around the NFL awaits word on whether Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended over domestic violence allegations, a consensus seems to be emerging that Elliott will get six games, in line with the league’s policy.
One problem: The league policy mandating a six-game suspension for domestic violence has been flouted by the league so many times as to be rendered meaningless. When the NFL announced the policy, it was sold as mandating a six-game suspension, with the possibility of a longer suspension if there were “mitigating factors.” But domestic violence suspensions are often for less than six games, with the NFL never explaining whether any “mitigating factors” contributed to a shorter suspension.
In August of 2014, after criticism over the league’s handling of the Ray Rice case, the NFL announced a new policy, saying that players would be suspended at least six games for a first domestic violence offense. But the league hasn’t abided by its own policy.
Just three days after the NFL announced its policy, Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa was arrested and charged with simple assault when police said Enunwa pulled a woman off a bed, hurting her head and finger. After the NFL investigated, Enunwa was suspended four games.
Then-Giants kicker Josh Brown was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Brown was suspended one game. After a backlash against the NFL’s decision to suspend Brown one game, he was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. He hasn’t played since.
Then-Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was accused of firing a gun in the air during an argument with a woman. After the NFL investigated, Quarless was suspended two games.
Less than a month after the NFL announced its mandatory six-game suspension policy, then-Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested at the team facility for head-butting his wife and breaking her nose. He was suspended three games. (The incident took place before the NFL announced the mandatory six-game suspension policy, although the arrest and the suspension both happened while the policy was in place.)
In 2015, then-Cowboys running back Joseph Randle had the police called on him for domestic violence with a weapon after an incident with the mother of his son. Randle was suspended four games.
The NFL likes to point to its policy on domestic violence as a positive step after the Ray Rice debacle, but the NFL takes so many liberties with its policy that it really isn’t a “policy” at all. If Elliott is suspended six games, that’s because the NFL wants to suspend him six games. Not because the NFL has a policy to follow. We’ve already seen many times that the policy isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.