The federal court ruling that delayed the suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott cited several flaws in the NFL’s disciplinary procedure. Judge Amos L. Mazzant III, in determining that the process lacked fundamental fairness, mentioned among other things the failure of arbitrator Harold Henderson to require the NFL to produce Elliott’s accuser, Tiffany Thompson, for testimony.
The league’s position, per a source with knowledge of the situation, is that the NFL has no subpoena power, and thus can’t compel Thompson or anyone else to appear and testify. Also, the league has concerns about putting alleged domestic violence victims in awkward and uncomfortable positions, a lesson learned when Janay Palmer Rice attended with former Ravens running back Ray Rice a disciplinary hearing at NFL headquarters.
That said, PFT has learned that the league didn’t ask Thompson to appear and testify at the appeal hearing before Harold Henderson. She voluntarily agreed to be interviewed six times by the league; perhaps she would have agreed to appear and testify under oath, if the request had been made.
Yes, she would have been required to face Elliott and confront cross-examination from his lawyers. But that same approach would have applied if prosecutors had filed criminal charges against Elliott, and that same approach will apply if Thompson eventually files a civil lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
The league’s reluctance to ask her to testify became moot once Henderson refused to compel the league to make her available. However the current litigation plays out, the decision not to require Thompson to testify in a case that Elliott believes turns on issues of witness credibility will continue to be a significant point of contention.