The Cowboys have not officially intervened in the litigation arising from running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension. Unofficially, the team has been very involved.
In addition to submitting an affidavit outlining the irreparable harm the team would suffer due to the absence of Elliott for six weeks, owner Jerry Jones has made his views on the matter crystal clear. He had more to say on the matter on Sunday.
“What is important is he gets a fair shake,” Jones said regarding Elliott’s disciplinary process, via Judy Battista of NFL Media. “Zeke has in no way, by any standard in this country, done anything wrong. He’s done nothing wrong. We, the league, have tried to say he’s done something we disagree with. We all don’t agree with that. I want him to get a fair shot. He deserves that.”
Elliott wasn’t arrested for or charged with domestic violence. However, the league decided that “credible evidence” exists to believe that a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy occurred.
“We don’t have the system in place for this and we’re trying to make one up in a few short months and it’s got too many ways to not be fair to a person like Zeke,” Jones said. “I know this: We have a pretty good system in place in this country. It’s called the legal system and it has a lot of precedent. It’s made a lot of mistakes, but it’s the best one probably in the world, in my view. For us to not recognize that, that’s a concern. First thing we did when we came to this country, our forefathers, we’re not going to let somebody sit over here and be accused. They’re going to get quick-and-immediate accounting and justice. Zeke hasn’t gotten that.”
The only thing Jones’ monologue lacked, apparently, was an express reference to “all our lil’ old ancestors.” Regardless, he has a point. For most employers, allegations of misconduct occurring out of the workplace have no relevance to the employee’s standing, unless and until he’s not available to work because he’s incarcerated. For P.R. reasons, however, the NFL has adopted a system of punishment that, thanks to the Ray Rice case, now disregards the criminal justice system entirely and imposes its own brand of justice.
The problem is that the system, as applied to Elliott, arguably wasn’t fair to him. Whether it was sufficiently unfair to render it unacceptable will be determined by the courts. For the league, the separate question is whether it makes sense to continue to utilize a clearly imperfect in-house system that seems to be less about meting out justice and more about protecting Big Shield from public relations embarrassments.