Nearly a year after Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott allegedly engaged in domestic violence, the NFL is closing in on ending its investigation.
According to NFL Media (i.e., the NFL), the investigatory phase of the process is nearing completion, and the NFL has shared its findings with the NFL Players Association. Also, the NFLPA has provided to the league a “final response” aimed at answering “any lingering question” about the probe into whether Elliott violated the personal conduct policy.
It’s unknown whether Elliott will be disciplined or suspended. Although he was never arrested or charged, the league applies a lower standard of proof in these matters, with the question of whether Elliott violated the policy essentially coming down to whether the league believes Elliott or his accuser.
Broader business considerations necessarily will influence that assessment, including pressure from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (who is believed to have made it clear that he won’t be as compliant as the Patriots were about the Tom Brady suspension), pressure from other owners who want Elliott to be punished, and the ever-critical P.R. component, which is the primary reason for the league’s decision to conduct its own investigations and impose its own discipline.
If the league doesn’t find a violation, the alleged victim can file a lawsuit or otherwise tell her story. And, necessarily, there will be people who automatically believe it and people who automatically reject it. Those who believe it will criticize the league for not taking action against Elliott, creating a potential Ray Rice-style embarrassment for the league.
Last week, ESPN reported that Elliott is bracing for a short suspension, which possibly would be the result of a compromise aimed at placating all of the various constituencies, and minimizing the potential P.R. fallout.