On Friday, a federal judge in Texas concluded that the league office utilized fundamentally unfair procedures when investigating and disciplining Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. On Sunday night, after the Cowboys beat the Giants with the assistance of Elliott, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones agreed.
“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,” Jones told reporters after Sunday night’s win over the Giants. “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.”
The broader question is why does the league even bother to police the lives of players who are away from the playing field? It seems as if Jones’ position would be that it’s better to not do it at all than to not do it the right way.
“One of the things that we feel compelled is because we have such interest and we have so many people that are interested in our game and interested in different aspects of the game,” Jones said. “As a matter of fact, we work our lives, ‘And 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.”
The league thinks it’s done fine, as evidenced by the decision to appeal the decision blocking the Elliott suspension to a higher court. Regardless, when one of the league’s most influential owners agrees with a federal judge that the league’s procedures weren’t fair, that’s a problem.