From the Basement: The No Fair Trial League

Tuesday night, the NFL upheld Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension. Elliott has been accused of domestic violence but has not been found guilty in a case that has taken more than a year to reach a verdict. That is, a case by the NFL. Elliott never even faced charges in a court for his alleged crime.

Let me say this before I go any further: Ezekiel Elliott might be guilty. In my personal opinion, I believe Ezekiel Elliott is guilty. Domestic violence is a horrible crime, and a player found guilty of it in court should be banned from the NFL for life, assuming they’ll even be out of prison before they can play again.

But Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t been found guilty of anything. And the NFL is not a court of law. What right does the league have to deal down a suspension to a player who, in the eyes of the law, is not guilty? There’s nothing illegal or unconstitutional about the league’s practice of suspending players who haven’t been found guilty of any crimes, considering it’s stated in the league’s personal conduct policy. It’s just an incredibly hypocritical practice, especially considering the NFL’s past with domestic violence. Let’s dive into that.

Last year, an NFL player was suspended for domestic violence. Why? He admitted to it after being arrested. He wrote in his journal, which police obtained, “I have abused my wife.” Kicker Josh Brown served a one-game suspension and then resumed his kicking duties for the New York Giants, for whom he kicked a game winner against the New Orleans Saints as time expired. And speaking of New Orleans, former Saint Junior Galette was charged with domestic violence after allegedly choking and shoving a woman in 2015. A 2013 video then surfaced of Galette fighting multiple men and striking a woman with a belt. Galette served a two-game suspension while he was injured, meaning he never missed any games, due to injury.

But of course, there’s Ray Rice. How can I accuse the NFL of hypocritical practices after it banned Rice from the NFL for life after video surfaced of him beating his wife in an elevator? Here’s how. First off, Rice wasn’t banned for life. He won his appeal two months after his indefinite suspension, but no team was willing to sign him, forcing him into retirement. Second, the video was in the hands of Baltimore Ravens officials, who had not reported it to the NFL, for months before it surfaced. The NFL, however, still knew about the incident. It suspended Rice for two games.

So, just to reiterate: The NFL does not care about domestic violence victims. Roger Goodell does not care about domestic violence victims. The handling of Ezekiel Elliott’s case is a desperate attempt to backtrack on years of leniency with players who have committed heinous crimes and remain in the league regardless. Is Ezekiel Elliott guilty? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure: If the NFL knew, he wouldn’t have been suspended this long.

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