USA TODAY Sports NFL reporter Lindsay H. Jones breaks down Elliott’s latest appeal denial, what could happen next and how the Dallas Cowboys will fare without their star running back.
USA TODAY Sports
Now that the question of whether Ezekiel Elliott can play is resolved, it’s worth asking why anyone bothered.
The crisscrossing through the court system. The distractions to the Dallas Cowboys. The howls of outrage as Jerry Jones takes a flamethrower to the league he professes to care about so much. The millions in lawyers’ fees.
For what? A result that anyone who has paid any attention to the NFL and its legal soap operas the last few years could have – should have – seen coming.
Elliott’s chances of getting his six-game suspension stayed while he appealed his case were always long for one very simple reason: The players and the owners alike agreed to let Roger Goodell be both judge and jury in disciplinary matters. There’s even a contract spelling it out.
Don’t like the consequences? Having buyer’s remorse? Tough. The time to protest or wail about unfairness was before people were signing on the dotted line, not six years later when things aren’t going your way.
More: Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension back on after appeals court denies injunction
More: NFL’s contenders and pretenders: Which teams are Super Bowl threats at midseason?
Whether Elliott is guilty of domestic abuse, as Goodell decided he was, or isn’t, as the Dallas Cowboys’ running back insists, is irrelevant. So, too, the questions about what evidence and testimony influenced Goodell’s decision.
The question before the courts was about the process. And the bottom line is, was and always will be that the NFL Players Association and the 32 owners agreed to give Goodell the power to make that decision and decide what the appropriate punishment should be. End of story.
This isn’t like when you’re a kid and you yell for a parent when you don’t like the way your sibling is playing a game. In agreeing to let Goodell have disciplinary powers – Article 46, for those who can’t seem to remember – the NFLPA and owners agreed to abide by the results.
The NFLPA had fair warning on this. The Pittsburgh Steelers voted as a team to reject the collective bargaining agreement because of concerns about Goodell’s overreach. But reining in Goodell’s powers likely would have meant sitting out games, and the union decided that paychecks mattered more than principles, especially because it applied to such a small percentage of players.
Jones is no less disingenuous.
The Cowboys owner thought it was just fine to have Goodell be Disciplinarian-in-Chief when it was some other owner’s player in trouble and some other team’s season in jeopardy. (Cough, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, cough.) Now that it’s his guy who’s suspended, his Cowboys’ season that’s on the line, Jones is suddenly an advocate for an overhaul of the NFL’s judicial system.
And, while he’s at it, putting the brakes on Goodell’s contract extension by threatening to sue the NFL.
That has about as much chance of succeeding as Elliott’s plea for an injunction, as the compensation committee recognized by revoking Jones’ ad-hoc status and continuing with the negotiations with Goodell.
Jones might be right. The NFL might be better served with someone besides Goodell as commissioner. While he’s made the league a ton of money, you could argue that would have been the case no matter who had the job. He’s botched almost every big decision before him, and has left the NFL vulnerable to criticism over head trauma, declining ratings and player protests.
But Jones wasn’t concerned by any of that in May, when he and the 31 other owners unanimously agreed that Goodell was deserving of an extension. “Not doing what I want” isn’t sufficient reason to go back on that.
The Elliott case was a waste of everyone’s time and money. But it’s a good reminder that you either agree to a contract and all its provisions, under any circumstances, or you don’t sign it.
Big as the issues at stake are, it’s really that simple.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.