The NFL has branded Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s a perpetrator of domestic violence. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continues to strongly disagree with that assessment.
“Every person that has any sense at all understands domestic violence,” Jones said during a visit with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of experience in this area. For 10 years before I bought the Cowboys, I was head of Battered Women of Arkansas. And I’ve raised more money and been in more safe houses than more people that talk about it. And so it’s a terrible problem.
“On the other hand, with what we are and what we’re trying to be relative to addressing it in the league has all kinds of issues. And it should. It’s a very complicated issue, and because you have no evidence here. That’s all I want to say about it. But it creates quite a convoluted approach by Zeke’s representatives and by the league that I really hate that is the focus of all of our attention. I do. Even though others would say that the issue needs this kind of focus and you’re using the NFL for visibility. So, I have a very, very — I’d say I’ve got some real opinions here and we won’t talk about them here on the show. But we’ve got some work to do here as far as the league is concerned.”
Jones is right. The NFL has created an internal system for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence (and other crimes) that uses reduced standards of proof and, more importantly, incomplete and ineffective procedures. The Commissioner, for example, made the initial decision in the Elliott case without ever meeting with Elliott or his accuser. Likewise, Elliott’s representatives won’t have a chance to question the accuser or to study the interview notes and transcripts generated by the league.
Yes, the league has the power to do this. But that doesn’t make it right.
The problem for the players is that the general public doesn’t understand the flaws in the process and/or doesn’t care as much about that as it cares about the problem of player misconduct, especially when that misconduct is directed against women. And so the league will continue to err on the side of punishing players aggressively (regardless of actual guilt) in order to avoid the backlash that happens when a potentially guilty player isn’t deemed to have been punished enough.
Put simply, the P.R. fallout for the league from getting it wrong in punishing the player pales in comparison to the P.R. fallout for the league from getting it wrong in not punishing the player. As a result, all players will have to worry about being punished for something they didn’t do, in order to help 345 Park Avenue avoid the backlash that will emerge if it fails once again to throw the book at a player who did something he shouldn’t have done.