As the Ezekiel Elliott case heads toward an appeal hearing with unclear parameters or procedures, one specific procedure regarding the pre-disciplinary process is becoming more clear: Witnesses weren’t placed under oath.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league didn’t administer the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth under penalty of perjury to Elliott at the June 26 hearing. This likely means that Tiffany Thompson wasn’t placed under oath, either, when she was questioned. (The NFL has not responded to a Friday email asking whether Thompson was interviewed under oath.)
The oath gets violated all the time, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be administered. For some, the gravity and potential consequences of lying while under oath makes a difference while telling a story — especially when it comes to spotting stress when someone is telling a story that isn’t true. For many, it’s hard enough to lie without lying under oath; it becomes even harder when the oath comes into play.
Of course, the impact of the oath on the perceived credibility of a witness has less meaning when the person making the decision doesn’t personally scrutinize the witness while testifying. But for the same reason Commissioner Roger Goodell should have been present to see and hear what Elliott and Thompson had to say, the NFL should have put all witnesses under oath as part of the process of gathering facts.
These deficiencies suggest that arbitrator Harold Henderson should: (1) hear testimony from all key witnesses; and (2) ensure that those witnesses are under oath in resolving Elliott’s appeal. If the league intends through its in-house justice system to apply the label of domestic abuser to one of its players, how can protections like these not be implemented?