Ezekiel Elliott’s lawyer didn’t do his client any favors by demanding a decision from the NFL

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Back before I ditched practicing law to cover the NFL exclusively, one of the things I learned (the hard way) was this: If you demand a ruling from a judge, you’ll likely get a ruling you don’t like.

The lawyer representing Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott apparently hasn’t learned that lesson yet, as evidenced by his curious decision to publicly agitate for exoneration of his client by the NFL in its ongoing investigation into whether Elliott committed domestic violence in July 2016.

Frank Salzano cited in his Monday press release “a mountain of exculpatory evidence demonstrating Mr. Elliott’s innocence,” and he accused the alleged victim of making “false allegations.” It’s always risky, however, to call someone a liar; it’s much better to find a way to demonstrate dishonesty in a calm, dispassionate manner that demonstrates, objectively, that the claims being made are not accurate.

Instead, Salzano has taken a verbal blow torch not only to the accuser but also to the media and to the league office. While that sort of bravado and rhetoric may work when the people deciding the matter are average voters who easily are bamboozled because they lack a full appreciation of the nuances of the issues or the surgical cynicism to understand how and why they’re being snowed, these tactics won’t work on the league office.

“The media has chosen to deflect the recent negative press regarding the NFL’s reported mishandling of several domestic violence matters by focusing on the NFL’s prolonged investigation of Mr. Elliott,” Salzano alleged in his press release. Beyond the fact that his argument confuses the media’s role in generating “recent negative press” with the league’s desire to avoid it, Salzano’s suggestion that the media is seizing on the Elliott investigation for reasons related to the Brown case makes no sense. The cases are different, but each one is relevant and newsworthy.

As to Elliott, the news (as summarized and reported on NBC’s Football Night in America) is this: (1) Elliott spent a little more than an hour answering questions posed by the league roughly a month ago; (2) the alleged victim is cooperating with the league; (3) there is no timetable for resolving the situation; and (4) many players are paying attention to the manner in which the league handles Elliott’s case because Giants kicker Josh Brown, who is white, initially received a suspension of only one game, despite the league’s position that the new standard punishment for domestic violence is six games.

If the allegations against Elliott are false, Salzano needs to let the NFL come to that conclusion on its own. As long as the investigation is open, Elliott loses neither a single dollar nor the ability to play. By pushing the NFL to act, Salzano could end up nudging the league office to exercise its broad discretion to place Elliott on the Commissioner’s-Exempt list pending the completion of the investigation, the imposition of discipline, and the pursuit of any internal appeals.

Ultimately, the rules allow the NFL to do whatever it wants to do. With the league already facing on one hand a sense of urgency to re-establish that it’s serious about domestic violence in the aftermath of the Josh Brown case and on the other hand a desire to create the impression that a deliberate and complete investigation was conducted, extra pressure from Elliott via his lawyer won’t make the NFL inclined to find a way to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Although Salzano seems to believe that the decision to not charge Elliott means he’s innocent, the truth is that dramatically different standards apply in the criminal justice system and the NFL’s in-house quasi-judicial procedures. Prosecutors typically don’t seek charges in cases where they believe “reasonable doubt” can be proven. For the NFL, where the much lower “more probable than not” standard applies, it’s possible to find a player guilty even if he never would be convicted by a jury that hears an if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit-style closing argument.

Here’s the key paragraph from an email that the Columbus, Ohio prosecutor recently sent to USA Today: “I personally believe that there were a series of interactions between Mr. Elliott and [his accuser] where violence occurred. However, given the totality of the circumstances, I could not firmly conclude exactly what happened. Saying something happened versus having sufficient evidence to criminally charge someone are two completely different things. Charging decisions are taken very seriously and we use best efforts to conduct thorough and detailed investigations.”

In other words, the prosecutor didn’t believe that a jury could be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Elliott was guilty. For the NFL, the question is more simply: Between Elliott and his accuser, who is more likely to be telling the truth?

That’s not an easy question to answer, and Salzano is doing Elliott no favors by demanding that the league should decide without further delay that his client is telling the truth and that Elliott’s accuser is lying.

24 responses to “Ezekiel Elliott’s lawyer didn’t do his client any favors by demanding a decision from the NFL

  1. One thing this article severely overlooks, no innocent man wants his name to continually be dragged through the mud. why does the media continue to regurgitate the same story?

  2. Turn in a circle three times, click your heels and wish as hard as you can that he’ll be suspended… I’m just about positive that this is driven by that notoriously crooked John Mara. After that Josh Brown fiasco, if Zeke misses a day I would sue the living crap out of the league if I were him.

  3. Zeke and all the witnesses verifying his story all told the same story when questioned several times by several investigators. His ex was caught sending text messages to her posse telling them what to say. Her, and all of them told different versions different times to different investigators. Slam dunk win for justice against an angry goldigging ex… “A mountain of exculpatory evidence demonstrating Mr. Elliott’s innocence,” says it all. Enter Roger Goodell with his NFL Keystone Cops to try to save face over the Josh Brown fiasco.

  4. Keeping the best players off the field due to zero legal prosecution reason # 3000 NFL ratings are down.

    This is entertainment.

    The NFL has turned its own product into a TMZ, HORRIBLE INVESTIGATION LEGAL LEAGUE SIDESHOW.

    Reason i have watched a total of 11 hrs of NFL games thru Week 8

  5. If this is a case of his word against her’s , then the NFL needs to interview the eyewitnesses. Each of the witnesses admitted, they saw nothing. The NFL must be trying to see if they can find a smoking gun, like a video or in Brown’s case, a full journal of a confession, but chances are that hey won’t find any.

  6. There are text messages, TEXT MESSAGES, proving this broad is a liar. I saw them, you saw them. We all saw em. What exactly are Goodell and his cronies investigating? He needs to go. Kaepernick isn’t the reason viewership is down, Goodell is 100%.

    Hopefully the decline spells his end by getting fired by the owners.
    I miss Tagliabue.

  7. “the manner in which the league handles Elliott’s case because Giants kicker Josh Brown, who is white, initially received a suspension of only one game….”

    One sided much??
    (1) What on earth does the player’s race have to do with his domestic violence charge?
    If the media would quit pushing the race issue, maybe we could get down to the business of healing a divided nation rather than stiring up more dysfunction then there is really there.

    (2) As reported right here on PFT, Brown was suspended one game by his team the Giants, not the league. The team is not under the six game mandate that NFL is, if they self disaplin a player prior to the NFL’s involvement.

    The defense rests.

  8. 6 game suspension. Let’s move on to the next degenerate woman beater. You probably can find at least 4 more on the Cowboys alone. Jones has a nurturing ability for players that beat women.

  9. In response to “msdevproblog” @ Nov 2, 2016 12:07 AM
    – The fact is that after the event the people all lie for personal gain. Players are taught when they come into the league how to protect themselves from this type of stuff. If you believe that the person was asked to lie for his girlfriend you are really gullible. The fact is that the person is lying for personal gain from Elliott. That is the way it works. Follow the personal gain. What does Elliott’s girlfriend have to gain by “ruining his career?” Nothing! She is either being honest or will recant. Either way, the actions still happened. There is little to no doubt that he laid hands on her and should have just left. Might no hold up in a criminal trial, but this is the NFL and they NEED to make a statement for every player. You get involved in this type of activity and you get 6 games. They can just say it is conduct detrimental to the league.

  10. It’s always risky, however, to call someone a liar; it’s much better to find a way to demonstrate dishonesty in a calm, dispassionate manner that demonstrates, objectively, that the claims being made are not accurate.
    ———–
    Unfortunately that tactic did not work for Tom Brady vs the NFL.
    It did however work for Goodell but then again he was also the presiding judge on his own case. Conflict of interest.

  11. Because of the Tom Brady ruling and the powers it gave the commissioner, players can now expect this from the league.

    The players are now starting to see this abuse of power and that is why the NFLPA fought Brady’s case for so long. A great amount of players stood to the side and did not understand the long term interest in this case.

    Now Elliott is caught between the consequences of the Brady case and the Ray Rice case.

  12. deathsfuture says:
    Nov 2, 2016 8:48 AM
    In response to “msdevproblog” @ Nov 2, 2016 12:07 AM
    – The fact is that after the event the people all lie for personal gain. Players are taught when they come into the league how to protect themselves from this type of stuff. If you believe that the person was asked to lie for his girlfriend you are really gullible. The fact is that the person is lying for personal gain from Elliott. That is the way it works. Follow the personal gain. What does Elliott’s girlfriend have to gain by “ruining his career?” Nothing! She is either being honest or will recant. Either way, the actions still happened. There is little to no doubt that he laid hands on her and should have just left. Might no hold up in a criminal trial, but this is the NFL and they NEED to make a statement for every player. You get involved in this type of activity and you get 6 games. They can just say it is conduct detrimental to the league.

    ****************************************************
    Or…the friend is telling the truth because they have integrity and refuse to put their butt on the line. If he did hit her that night, why text the friend and tell her to tell the cops that he dragged her out of the car. She would have simply text her and told and said “Tell the cops exactly what you saw”. You say there is no doubt he laid his hands on her…..the cops and the DA disagree with you. Now…show me payments from Elliott or anyone connected to him to the witnesses that dispute the ex’s claims and I’ll change my mind. Sounds to me like he dumped her, she went to a party she wasnt invited to and saw him with another woman and got angry and decided to get back at him. She wouldnt be the first and she wont be the last to ever try that.

  13. Whoever wrote this completely missed the point. The story of Josh Brown has nothing to do with him being white. How do people get this stupid?

    The story of Josh Brown is that his team is owned by Mara. Nothing this guy does is honest, and he’s Goodell’s good buddy. Just typical power biases.

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