Ezekiel Elliott’s hearing for the appeal of his six-game suspension to begin the 2017 season concluded on Thursday. Throughout the day word began to spread that people with knowledge of the hearing suggested Zeke’s suspension could be reduced, but on Thursday evening a new element to this story dropped.
Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Kia Roberts, NFL Director of Investigations and the NFLPA’s forensics expert, had recommended no suspension for Zeke.
[Elliott’s] camp promised controverting evidence to the league’s 13-month domestic violence investigation of Elliott, based on claims made by [the accuser]. The possible bombshell evidence came in the form of NFL lead investigator Kia Roberts.
Roberts recommended no suspension for Elliott following her interviews with [the accuser] during the investigation _ a fact she testified to during the appeals hearing with Henderson, according to a source.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had expressed confidence that Zeke would not be suspended previously, and part of where that confidence came from is now seemingly more obvious. He was relying on the Roberts’ “no discipline” recommendation. Hill also reports that a top NFL executive told Jones there would be no suspension. The problem was that Roberts’ recommendation was not used when making the final decision on a suspension, according to Hill.
But Roberts’ recommendation never made it into the NFL’s final report and the official suspension letter on Aug. 11, which cited the league’s findings of three instances of domestic violence by Elliott against [his accuser] based on the victim’s testimony and photographic evidence.
You might have read that final paragraph and wondered why Kia Roberts’ recommendation never made it into the NFL’s final report. There is an answer.
Even more troubling is that when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell conducted a meeting to discuss discipline for Elliott, it included Lisa Friel, the senior vice president for investigations, Jeff Pash, executive vice president and general counsel and Adolpho Birch, senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, among others.
But Roberts was not at the meeting, where Friel recommended a six-game suspension to Goodell.
It was testified during the appeal hearing that Friel barred Roberts from the meeting, per a source.
You’ll remember that Senior Vice President for Investigations Lisa Friel is also on the record for not finding Elliott’s accuser to be credible. Also from the Forth Worth Star-Telegram earlier this month:
Per the documents, Friel was unable to give an clear endorsement of [the accuser’s] credibility because she repeatedly misled investigators.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported on this matter Thursday night, more from the perspective to which the NFLPA is coming at this from.
Friel's testimony corroborated that of Roberts, and the part of that testimony with which the NFLPA took issue was that commissioner Roger Goodell imposed the six-game suspension without Roberts' input with regard to appropriate discipline. Roberts was part of the committee that wrote the 160-page report on its investigation into Elliott's case, but that report did not include a specific recommendation of discipline. A different committee, which included some but not all members of the original investigating group, met with Goodell to discuss discipline based on the report. Roberts was not asked to be part of that meeting, according to her testimony and that of Friel.
If a decision is not announced before Saturday regarding Zeke, the Cowboys will have to carry him as part of their allotted 53-man roster. For now, we wait.