The NFL will have plenty to say in court about the 30-page petition filed overnight on behalf of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. For now, the league has one clear message.
The allegation that league executives conspired to keep the opinions of director of investigations Kia Roberts from Commissioner Roger Goodell is not accurate.
“I can tell you without any hesitation that this is false,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told PFT by phone on Friday morning.
Lockhart explained that Goodell was aware of the views of everyone on the team. Roberts, according to Elliott’s lawsuit, believed Tiffany Thompson was not credible, and that Elliott should not be suspended.
“It’s categorically false that the information was kept from the Commission,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart did not dispute the notion that Roberts believed Thompson to not be credible. He noted that the Commissioner was aware of Roberts’ concerns regarding the credibility of Thompson and other witnesses.
“The findings were not based on the testimony of any one witness,” Lockhart said. “It was based on evidence through forensic sources and it was corroborated in the process.”
The league previously has argued that photographs taken by Thompson of her injuries, coupled with metadata confirming the precise time they were taken, contributed to the conclusion that the injuries were inflicted by Elliott.
Lockhart agreed that Roberts was not present for the June 26 hearing in the Elliott case, and that she was not present for the meeting with the Commissioner that included a recommendation from Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel that sufficient evidence exists to suspend Elliott. Lockhart said that the June 26 hearing “was not designed to put questions to investigators,” but for Elliott to make his case. Lockhart also said that Roberts’ presence at the meeting with the Commissioner was not necessary, because he was aware of her concerns.
Kia Roberts, who interviewed Thompson on multiple occasions, has become a central figure in this case because she testified at the three-day appeal hearing. Per Lockhart, the NFL did not designate her as a witness; Elliott requested that she be required to testify, and arbitrator Harold Henderson agreed. For its part, the league was content to rely on the 160-page report arising from the investigation.
Elliott also wanted the Commissioner to be required to testify. If he had, he could have explained that he was aware of Roberts’ opinions directly to Henderson.