In the Texas ruling that initially blocked the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, Judge Amos Mazzant dropped a compelling footnote about the testimony of NFL Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel. In the latest brief submitted by the NFL Players Association in support of Elliott’s effort to secure the same injunction in New York following the dismissal of the Texas case on jurisdictional grounds, the NFLPA emphasizes the concerns raised by Judge Mazzant about Friel’s testimony.
The NFLPA’s reference to testimony provided by Friel at the internal appeal hearing comes in response to a contention by the league that the Commissioner was aware of the concerns raised by Director of Investigations Kia Roberts, who believed that the evidence did not justify a suspension — and who curiously was excluded from key meetings that led to the suspension. The NFLPA explains that the league’s argument “conspicuously ignores Friel’s inconsistent and incoherent testimony on this subject,” pointing out that “within the space of a few minutes of cross-examination, Friel testified every which way but Sunday about what the Commissioner was told.”
Those inconsistencies, the NFLPA believes, make it impossible to know whether the Commissioner actually knows about the concerns expressed by Kia Roberts. The failure of arbitrator Harold Henderson to require the Commissioner to testify at the appeal hearing make it impossible to establish that he did indeed know.
“It was this ‘varying testimony’ — by an experienced attorney no less — that led Judge Mazzant to conclude that the arbitral record was ‘less than convinc[ing]’ that the Commissioner was aware of Roberts’ conclusion that the accuser’s claims against Elliott were incredible, uncorroborated, and insufficient to impose any discipline,” the NFLPA explains in its latest submission in support of a new preliminary injunction, in New York.
The Friel testimony could therefore become a key aspect of next week’s hearing on the request to convert the TRO to an injunction, especially if the league continues to insist that the Commissioner knew that Kia Roberts believed Elliott shouldn’t have been suspended.