The NFL and Elliott do not make matters better
The Ezekiel Elliott situation is tricky. We know all the details, including the report via Yahoo! detailing that the alleged victim, Tiffany Thompson, considered releasing a sex-tape with Elliott as blackmail. There is no need to go over a summary of the events. If you’re more concerned with the on the field implications, our own Grant Evan has it covered. What does need to be discussed is how we as individuals internalize and respond to complicated issues such as this.
Unfortunately for this case, it’s the epitome of he said, she said. Thompson took photos of the bruising on her skin, claiming Elliott caused them. And without much surprise, Elliott has been adamant about denying the abuse. No one else outside of Thompson and Elliott knows what happened during those July 2016 nights. Trying to determine the truth as viewers from the outside looking in is damn near impossible. This is why our society has a justice system to help us determine something resembling the truth. This is why the NFL wants to be in the business of policing its employees when said justice system faces these limitations.
But when all three parties involved have credibility issues, while taking into consideration the stigma against women in these sorts of domestic abuse cases, it can create inconsistent thoughts and logic within the individual.
Ezekiel Elliott has credibility issues because of course he’s going to deny that he assaulted Thompson. People do not simply fess up to domestic assault when others accuse them of it. We are always going to be skeptical of the individual accused of a crime, even though our the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is foundational to our judicial system. Very few people are that open and honest about committing such heinous actions.
Furthermore, it does not help Elliott’s position in that Thompson did file a police report with the Aventura, Florida Police Department for assault back in February 2016. Then, there is the incident where Elliott pulled down a woman’s shirt on camera during a St. Patrick’ Day parade. This is another disgusting act by Elliott and yet, the NFL did nothing about this sort of abuse. Quite frankly, if the NFL wants to present itself as a league that doesn’t marginalize women, suspending Elliott for this St. Patrick’s Day act should have been a no-brainer.
Thompson’s credibility does come into question due to the sex tape reports. If she’s willing to entertain the idea of blackmail, she may have ulterior motives with the assault claims. However, and this is a big however, Thompson entertaining the thought of releasing her’s and Elliott’s sex-tape does not mean that the abuse did not occur on the nights in question. Keep in mind that the conversation and the creation of the email account happened in August and September 2016, after the alleged assault. There is the possibility of Thompson finding a different method of justice given that the courts and the police can only do so much with domestic violence cases.
And to make this matter even more complicated than it already is, the fact that the beginning of the previous paragraph exists puts me in a position of perpetuating a stigma against women about false accusations. When you Google “false allegations of domestic violence,” you will see the page filled with defense attorneys and men’s rights groups claiming that nearly every woman who reports domestic violence is lying. Yet, a number of studies, such as one performed in 2013 by The Crown Prosecution Service, suggests the opposite.
In the [17-month] period of the review, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence. During the same period, there were 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape, 6 for making false allegation of domestic violence and 3 for making false allegations of both rape and domestic violence.
The concept of women making false domestic violence accusations against men is far from an epidemic. This is something individuals should not be concerned with. Very rarely does a woman report false accusations of assault. Despite the evidence to the contrary, when it comes to our beloved sports stars, many fans are quick to jump to the conclusion of supporting the athlete and condemning the woman. ESPN’s Bomani Jones on his radio show on August 16th discussed the anti-women responses he received on Twitter regarding Ezekiel Elliott. It’s shocking, though far from surprising, the things men write when domestic violence cases arise.
Last and certainly not least, the NFL absolutely has credibility issues pertaining to this situation. From Bountygate to Deflategate, the league and Roger Goodell have not handled situations involving penalties well at all. Look no further than this current issue. The NFL suspends Elliott for six games, yet suspends Josh Brown for only one game where the evidence against Brown was overwhelming. Why so drastically inconsistent? Why is Ezekiel Elliott the poster child and not Josh Brown?
This is far from a defense for Elliott as well. If he in deed assault Thompson and he has people such as Jerry Jones lying for him and supporting him, Elliott is a special type of low-life that deserves the suspension. Furthermore, the NFL does believe that Elliott did, in fact, assault Thompson. If that’s the case, why did Elliott only receive the minimum of six games? If the goal is to set an example and not tolerate violence against women, shouldn’t the NFL suspend Elliott for more than the minimum amount of games?
The NFL and Roger Goodell, once again, put themselves in a no-win situation. Moreover, their actions even create an argument for individuals to defend a man accused of assault! How is that possible?
If you could not tell already, there is a lot of differing and conflicting thoughts stemming from this Elliott saga. It’s complicated, to say the least. And the best way to process the information is to embrace the conjunction and. Splinting off into one side versus another creates unnecessary friction when discussing matters. Just look what has happened to American political discord. What’s sometimes forgotten in this new polarized, “embrace debate” climate is that people and situations can be multifaceted. It’s not always one thing or the other.
Tiffany Thompson can both be telling the truth about the assault and wanted to blackmail Elliott. Ezekiel Elliott can be both guilty of his crime and be unjustly punished by the NFL because of previous failings, and precedent established by the league. The NFL can both be praised for being proactive and suspending Elliott despite the court not pressing charges and ridiculed for creating the appearance of “making things up as they go along.”
Because of the multifaceted nature of this situation, we need to remember to not jump to conclusions. Waiting to form an opinion as news outlets release more information is critical. We should not demonize Thompson and discredit her allegations because of the sex tape issue. Neither should we demonize Elliott if he happens to be telling the truth. However, the studies done about domestic violence cases do suggest that Thompson is not fabricating this assault. And if that’s the case, did the NFL punish Elliott enough? That’s a whole other topic for another time.