When it comes to handling issues involving domestic violence and its players, the NFL has a pretty terrible track record. And the only thing usually worse than how they handle the situation is how they handle the criticism.
The league appears to be at it again as they continue to push back against criticism of the way they’ve handled the situation surrounding Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott is accused of five domestic violence incidents that took place over a six-day period in July 2016. While the accuser posted images of her bruised body online and video emerged of him accosting the woman, The NFL remained quiet on the matter. Finally, after taking 13 months to complete an investigation, they suspended Elliott for six games.
Since that time, multiple negative reports and rumors surrounding the accuser have emerged. One report said that she was contemplating blackmailing Elliott by releasing a sex tape because she didn’t think anyone would believe her otherwise.
Not one to ever be considered a champion of sexual assault victims, the NFL took the rather strange step Wednesday of publically accusing the NFLPA of releasing these reports as a way to slander the accuser’s name.
New NFL statement pic.twitter.com/KJ64RDHVB2
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) August 16, 2017
“Over the past few days we’ve received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media about the victim in [the] Ezekiel Elliott discipline case. It’s a common tactic to attempt to prove the innocence of the accused by discrediting the victim — this case Ms. Thompson — when coming forward to report such abuse. Efforts to shame and blame victims are often what prevent people from coming forward to report violence and/or seek help in the first place.”
Upon the release of that statement, the NFLPA quickly released one of their own, condemning the accusation.
The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this statement. pic.twitter.com/OFOGQY91Ai
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) August 16, 2017
“The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in the statement. We know the League office has a history of being exposed for its lack of credibility. This is another example of the NFL’s hypocrisy on display and an attempt to create a sideshow to distract from their own failings with such serious issues. They should be ashamed for stooping to new lows.”
The NFLPA’s Twitter account also released a quick-hit emoji tweet that it later deleted.
This was not a great look, NFLPA. Just remember, victims are watching. pic.twitter.com/43zSfGAMM8
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) August 16, 2017
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, who first reported the sex tape blackmail report, said afterward that he received his information from the NFL’s report on the discipline decision and not from any outside source.
In the meantime, the next step in this sordid saga will be for Elliott to appeal his suspension to Harold Henderson, an arbiter appointed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Many people assume that the six-game suspension will be cut down from there and was meant to be a show of force by the league that it takes matters like these seriously.
Wednesday’s statement was a strong tactic to make themselves look like the entity that cares about sexual assault victims while also painting the players’ association as an enemy. One wonders how effecting the mighty NFL can ever be at making themselves look like the good guys given everything we know.