It took more than a year from the time Ezekiel Elliott was accused of domestic violence to the NFL handing him a six-game suspension. The details that have been made public have been confusing and ugly, and both sides have questioned the other’s credibility.
There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened between Elliott and the woman.
We do know Elliott wasn’t criminally charged in the case and has repeatedly denied the accusations. We also know the woman gave a false statement to police about one allegation she made against Elliott, but that the NFL’s investigation concluded she was telling the truth about three other claims of physical violence. The Columbus, Ohio, prosecutor who did not bring charges against Elliott also believed his alleged victim but suggested he did not have the evidence to pursue charges.
The point of this article is to sort out what has been made public and piece together a timeline based on police reports, witness statements, text messages, and the NFL’s findings. Not all information related to this case is public. Only the recorded police interviews from the alleged victim and one witness have been made available. The NFL’s 160-page investigation report has not been released, although snippets of it have been leaked to the press.
Elliott is only the third player — and the most recognizable name — to receive the baseline six-game suspension for domestic violence since the personal conduct policy was enacted in December 2014.
Now, the situation is threatening to turn into a long, even nastier battle, not just as Elliott fights the suspension but as the NFL and NFL Players Association engage in another power struggle over the league’s disciplinary process.
Feb. 12, 2016: Elliott’s accuser first calls the police
What she told police: Elliott’s accuser called the Aventura Police Department in Florida after an argument with him. She said that Elliott, listed as a “friend (with benefits)” in the police report, pushed her against a wall, hurting her shoulder.
In her phone call to 911, she told the operator that her boyfriend hit her “Because I texted one of his old teammates.” (pages 19-20)
What he told police: Elliott told police that the woman, who was visiting him from Ohio during his pre-draft training, was angry over a “social media incident” and in the ensuing argument he asked her to leave. He said he tried to lock himself in another room. The police report said she grabbed his waist and he pushed her off of him.
The woman was examined by paramedics. There were no visible signs of injury and no other witnesses. No charges were filed. (Aventura police report)
What she told the NFL: The Dallas Morning News obtained transcripts of the alleged victim’s interviews with Kia Roberts, the NFL’s director of investigations. During her interview, Elliott’s accuser said that the day before she filed a police report in Florida, an argument between the two began after she got upset about Elliott whispering about another woman to a friend she called a “marketing agent” who was into drugs (page 20 and page 31). She said Elliott shoved her against the wall multiple times and pinned her, leaving bruises and thumbprints on her arms.
In an interview from September 2016, she told Roberts that Elliott stopped when he “realizes what he’s doing, like every other time. And that’s when I said he said, ‘just come to bed and lay down with me.’” (page 6)
The woman said she was trying to leave and he tried to stop her, and that Elliott was drunk. “When he drinks … it’s just a different side to him. It’s like he loses, like, all control of his self.” (page 5)
In another interview from November 2016, she told league investigators that she texted Joey Bosa, Elliott’s teammate at Ohio State and former roommate, through Facebook to find a place to stay in the area and that when Elliott found out about the texts the next day, Elliott shoved her again with an “open hand,” hurting her left shoulder and chest, and threw all her belongings off the balcony of his rented apartment. That’s when she said she called the police. (pages 21-26)
She said after she checked into a hotel, a lawyer and agent for Elliott texted her because they were worried about the press finding out. According to her interview, she agreed to call the police officer she had met because “I didn’t want to ruin [Elliott’s] career.” She said Elliott texted her throughout the day and came to see her at the hotel twice. (pages 29-30)
In her September interview with Roberts, Elliott’s accuser said she didn’t remember their conversation at the hotel, but she knew she told Elliott that she was “done with him.” (page 8) In her November interview, she said Elliott told her he loved her and wanted to be with her. (page 31)
What Elliott told the NFL: During the NFL’s investigation, Elliott said that his accuser had never called the police on him before July 22, 2016, which is untrue. However, he was not directly asked about what happened in Aventura. (pages 20-21) During his appeal hearing in August 2017, Elliott told NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson that he misinterpreted the question and thought Roberts was only asking about the events of the week of July 16-22. (page 82)
Elliott was questioned about the Aventura incident at his appeal hearing. He said that she was “rude” to him and his friend, so he suggested she go back to Ohio a day early. The next day, he said Bosa texted him a screenshot of his exchange with the woman and Elliott said she asked to stay with Bosa.
Elliott said he never touched or harmed his accuser. When she recounted the events to the officers on scene, Elliott said the woman was “literally looking at me, literally started smiling and laughing.” (pages 80-81)
Elliott also said that he never pushed her off of him and that the police report got it wrong. “I didn’t push her. I was trying to unlock my door,” he said. (page 147)
He said he tried to cut off contact with her, but he went to see her at her hotel the next day when she told him she had been drugged while she was out in Miami by herself the previous night. Elliott said the woman later admitted to making it up. (page 82)
April 28, 2016: Elliott gets drafted by Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys selected Elliott with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He was the first running back taken. Team owner Jerry Jones later told USA Today that the subject of Elliott and women was not discussed during the lead-up to the draft.
July 16: Elliott returns to Columbus from Dallas
Elliott’s alleged victim picked him and his friend up from the airport on Saturday, July 16. The three went to Elliott’s apartment in Columbus that afternoon. This was confirmed by both the woman in an audio interview and Elliott’s friend. Later, they all went to a club, The Social Room, according to Elliott’s friend in a statement. He said the three headed back to Elliott’s apartment and were together until 3:30 a.m. on July 17. (Page 56 of public records from the Columbus City Attorney’s office)
July 17-22, 2016: Elliott’s accuser reports 5 instances of violence
Elliott’s alleged victim told police that he had abused her five times from early July 17 to July 22 in Columbus. The police interview took place on July 22, and was then followed by an interview with the intake unit of the prosecutor’s office that same day. The NFL determined Elliott had been violent in three instances that week. Elliott has denied he was ever abusive toward the woman.
Early morning Sunday, July 17: First alleged incident
What she told police: The woman claimed that Elliott attacked her at about 3 a.m. at his apartment after an argument about their “unhealthy relationship.” She said that Elliott frequently cheated on her and when she told him she had been with another man during one of their breaks, he tried to strike her. The woman had a bruise on her right forearm, which she said happened when she tried to block Elliott from hitting her in the face. (page 11)
In a written statement to Columbus police, she said, “this has previously happened as well multiple times in the past.” (page 3)
What she told the prosecutor’s office: In an interview with the intake unit at the prosecutor’s office — audio of which was obtained by SB Nation through the Columbus City Attorney’s office — she said that the abuse had happened before and she hadn’t reported it, other than the incident in Florida. She referred to Elliott as her ex-boyfriend “right now” and told the intake counselor she and Elliott had dated for about a year.
“He has lost control and has yanked me into the wall, busted the side of my jaw,” the alleged victim said. “My face is swollen and a little bit bruised.”
In the police report, there was no mention of Elliott choking her on this date, but there was in her interview. The woman told the intake counselor that when she asked why a girl was calling in the early-morning hours of July 17, between 3 and 5 a.m., Elliott called her a bitch and “came over to my side, dragged me out of the bed. And then he threw me up against the door in his bedroom. Then he placed his right hand around my neck and started choking me.”
Elliott’s accuser said the choking lasted between 20-30 seconds and after he let go, that’s when he tried to hit her in the face, which she blocked. She said she started crying and he asked if she was OK. She answered no, and he apologized, according to her interview. She said he then acted like nothing had happened and she tried to leave, but he didn’t want her to.
“I was scared he was going to touch me again, so I just listened and I laid back down,” the alleged victim told the prosecutor’s office. She said they then fell asleep.
Elliott’s accuser said they spent all day Sunday together at his apartment, even though she had told Elliott she wanted to leave. According to her account, Elliott wouldn’t let her leave or take her belongings.
What one witness told police: The friend of Elliott’s signed an affidavit stating he had stayed at the apartment with Elliott and the woman until 3:30 a.m. and did not witness a fight, nor “see any evidence of injury, bruising, or scrapes” on her. (page 57)
The NFL said Elliott was violent: The woman took photos of herself the day after the alleged incident. In messages handed over to the NFL, Elliott’s accuser texted the photos to her aunt along with a note that said “Absuive” [sic]. The NFL confirmed the timestamps based on forensic analysis. The investigators determined Elliott had used physical force with the woman, causing injuries to her “arms, neck and shoulders.” The two medical experts consulted by the NFL’s investigators said the injuries in the photos “appear recent and consistent with [the accuser’s]description of the incident and how it occurred.” (NFL’s letter to Elliott, page 3; via Pro Football Talk)
Late Sunday night to early Monday, July 18: Second alleged incident
What she told police: The woman said in the police report that the two had gone out separately Sunday night and Elliott became angry when he arrived back at his apartment before she did. When she returned early Monday morning, she said that Elliott had choked her, leaving a bruise on her neck. (page 11)
What she told the prosecutor’s office: She told the intake counselor that when she returned, Elliott threatened to smash her car windows and headlights, and then he grabbed his keys that she had in her hand and he twisted her left arm, only letting go when his friend told him to stop. She said that gave her a bruise.
The woman said they continued to argue, in front of Elliott’s friend, about another guy she had been involved with while she and Elliott were broken up. She told police that the reason she and Elliott got back together in the first place was because he texted her frequently with messages like “I can’t lose you, I love you.”
Elliott’s accuser said he tried to leave but couldn’t get a friend to pick him up, so the two went to bed. She said she stayed and was “still in fear.”
What two witnesses told police: A statement from Elliott’s friend said that he stayed overnight with them and did not witness an altercation. (page 57)
A coworker of the woman’s signed an affidavit that said he hung out with her at a pool early the next day and did not see any marks on the accuser, who had been wearing “the equivalent of a bikini.” (page 66)
Late Monday night to Tuesday, July 19: Third alleged incident
What she told police: In the police report, the alleged victim said Elliott threw her against a wall at his apartment after she returned from a night out and told her she was “lucky that he has not killed her yet.” (page 11)
In her written statement, Elliott’s accuser said he choked her, smacked her face, and called her his “puppy dog.” She said he also apologized and called it “tough love,” but said it wouldn’t happen again. (page 47)
What she told the prosecutor’s office: During her intake interview, there was no mention of choking, throwing her against a wall, or him saying she was “lucky that he has not killed her yet.” The alleged victim said everything was fine during the day Monday, but early Tuesday morning, they had another argument. She said he told her, “You’re in my house, you’re my puppy dog” and when she tried to leave, he replied, “no, sit the fuck down.”
Then she said Elliott grabbed her, threw her on the bed, and told her not to move, taking away both her phone and her car keys. When she tried to leave, she said Elliott “aggressively” poked her cheek when she tried to avoid looking at him. She said he also grabbed and smacked her face, which was “really sore.”
The woman also said Elliott told her “We’re spending the whole day together. You have no choice but to.” She said they spent all day Tuesday together and he cried and apologized, telling her “it’s just tough love. I love you too much” several times.
What one witness said: A statement from Elliott’s friend said he came back to Elliott’s apartment alone at 3:15 a.m. and the alleged victim was waiting there. He said the woman stayed over and never mentioned any fights or injuries. The friend said Elliott didn’t return home until 8 or 9 a.m. Tuesday. (page 58)
The NFL said Elliott was violent: Two days later, she took photos of herself again and texted them to her mom, confirmed by forensic analysis. The NFL investigation concluded Elliott caused injuries to the woman’s “face, arms, wrist and hands.” The two medical experts consulted by the NFL’s investigators said the injuries in the photos “appear recent and consistent with [the accuser’s]description of the incident and how it occurred.” (pages 3-4)
Late Wednesday night to early Thursday, July 21: Fourth alleged incident
What she told police: Elliott’s accuser told police that when she and Elliott arrived at his apartment after a night out, he “lost it” when she asked him a question. She claimed Elliott threw her against a wall, grabbed her throat, yanked her by the left wrist, and then dragged her across the floor, giving her a rug burn on her right knee. (pages 11 and 48)
What she told the prosecutor’s office: In her intake interview, the alleged victim said Elliott threw her against a wall and she hit her head. “I felt dizzy,” she said.
Then, she said Elliott dragged her to the bedroom, telling her “don’t play with me.” He then tried to call the guy she had been seeing when she and Elliott were broken up, but the other guy didn’t answer, according to his accuser. She said she brought up Elliott’s past cheating.
“That’s when he grabs my neck, pins me down to the floor,” the alleged victim said during her interview. He gets on top of me, starts shaking me. I start gasping for breath.”
She said he then lifted her up and threw her on the bed. She claimed Elliott told her, “I’m not dealing with your dumb ass anymore“ and then “Try to leave and see what happens.” She told the intake counselor that she was too scared to leave.
What two witnesses told police: Elliott’s friend said he and Elliott were at a bar from about midnight until 2 a.m. Thursday. He said Elliott’s accuser met them there, and the three went back to Elliott’s place together. He claims the alleged victim was “too intoxicated to drive” and she stayed over. The friend’s signed affidavit stated he slept across the hall and never heard or saw anything violent occur. (page 59)
An Ohio State student who knew Elliott signed a sworn statement that said Elliott introduced him to the alleged victim late Wednesday night. The student did not observe any bruising on Elliott’s accuser and took photos with Elliott, the woman, and a few of Elliott’s friends early Thursday morning. The photos were attached to his affidavit. (page 65)
The NFL said Elliott was violent: In the afternoon, the woman took photos of her injuries and the ones that allegedly occurred on July 19. The NFL’s investigation ruled Elliott was responsible for injuries to alleged victim’s “face, neck, arms, knees and hips.” The two medical experts consulted by the NFL’s investigators said the injuries in the photos “appear recent and consistent with [the accuser’s]description of the incident and how it occurred.”
Thursday afternoon and evening, July 21: Elliott’s alleged victim talks about going to police
What she told the prosecutor’s office: Elliott’s accuser said she left Elliott’s place right after he did and that Elliott didn’t lay a hand on her that day. She said he told her, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
She said Elliott told her he was scared to be around her because he didn’t want to abuse her again. She claimed this was said via text messages. One of their text exchanges entered in evidence from that night read (page 36):
Later that night, she said she told him she had enough and was going to go to the police.
She also said Elliott texted to ask why she wasn’t celebrating his birthday (July 22) with him and that she didn’t love him. Another text exchange from that night read (page 37):
According to the alleged victim, Elliott Facetimed her and “told me I can get the police involved all I want. That he’s going to win” and that no one would believe her.
What Elliott said: Elliott said that his accuser was upset after he asked her to leave and told her that he couldn’t go out with him that night.
“Ok this is what you want? Ok then, I’m going to ruin your life. You will see. If I was you, I wouldn’t go out tonight,” she replied, according to documents obtained by the Star-Telegram.
Elliott also told the woman that she couldn’t come to his birthday party and she replied, “that’s worst decision you made in your life. I’m going to ruin you life now,” per the same documents.
What one witness said: The prosecutor’s office only recorded two interviews: the alleged victim and the friend of the alleged victim. The friend told the intake counselor that on Thursday afternoon, Elliott’s accuser showed her bruises, telling her Elliott had done it and it had been happening that week. The friend said Elliott’s accuser did not have the bruises last time they had seen each other, which was about 10 days before that day.
The accuser’s friend said the woman discussed her plan to file a police report and told her, “I don’t really know for sure if I want to do this because I know what the repercussions [are]but at the same time, this is not OK. I’m, like, honestly hurting.”
The friend said she would not be willing to testify if it had gone to trial because she was also a friend of Elliott’s.
Early morning Friday, July 22 (Elliott’s 21st birthday): Fifth alleged incident; Elliott’s accuser calls police
What she told police: Elliott’s accuser called Columbus police around 2:40 a.m. on Elliott’s 21st birthday. She told them that Elliott had attacked her while she was sitting in her car after he had requested she spend his birthday with him and stay the night.
Her written statement said Elliott cursed at her and “yanked my right arm and dragged me out of the car. Leaving my right hand/wrist bruised and red.” She was offered, but turned down, medical treatment. (page 49)
She also told police that Elliott, whom she said she had lived with from November 2015 to January 2016, had hit her several times over the past few days and had left bruises on her arm. In a call to 911 earlier that night, she referred to Elliott as “my boyfriend.” She said “he’s been doing it for the past five days” and had hit her “all over.”
Police took photos of visible injuries on the woman that day. She also posted on her Instagram account pictures of marks and bruises on her body with a caption that read:
“Just for every women [sic]out there getting abused it’s time to put a stop to it. This has been happening to me for months and it finally got out of control to where I was picked up and thrown across the room by my arms. Thrown into walls. Being choked to where I have to gasp for breath. Bruised everywhere, mentally and physically abused. It’s not okay. So I want each and everyone one [sic]of you girls to step away now from domestic violence. You’re worth so much more. I got told it was called “tough love” I’m sorry if you love someone you don’t touch your loved ones.”
What Elliott said: Elliott denied that he had assaulted her that night or previously. He said that he and his accuser never lived together and never dated, though they had a sexual relationship and he had paid her rent and co-signed for a car.
Elliott told police that his accuser got her bruises in a bar fight.
Elliott told the NFL investigation he was “100 percent certain” that his accuser told him the same day, “You are a black male athlete. I’m a white girl. They are not going to believe you,” according to documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
What witnesses told police: Four witnesses said they saw the interaction in the parking lot and Elliott did not touch the woman.
Elliott’s alleged victim’s friend — the same one who saw bruising on her Thursday afternoon — was listed as a witness and also said Elliott did not assault the woman that night. The witness signed an affidavit contradicting what her friend had told police. She also said her friend asked her to lie to police. (pages 62-63)
Records show Elliott’s accuser texted her friend “if they ask he dragged me out of my car” while she was talking to police. When her friend asked if she wanted to lie, Elliott’s accuser responded, “Yea.” (page 43)
In her statement, the friend said she was out to The Social Room that night with Elliott’s accuser. She said they left around 2 a.m. when another woman attacked Elliott’s accuser, with a face slap and hair-pulling. The friend said she grabbed Elliott’s accuser by the waist to pull her back from the altercation. The fight was confirmed by other witnesses, including two off-duty police officers; however, they said they saw punches thrown.
After the fight was broken up about one minute later, the friend said she and Elliott’s accuser left to meet up with Elliott and some others at the place he was staying for his birthday. Elliott wasn’t there, but soon pulled up in a vehicle driven by a woman, later identified as a friend of Elliott’s and his designated driver for the night. Elliott’s accuser exited her vehicle and started yelling at Elliott and the driver, according to witnesses.
The alleged victim’s friend, Elliott, and two other witnesses all said in signed statements that his accuser had yelled at him that she was going to “ruin his career.”
What one witness told the prosecutor’s office: The alleged victim’s friend told the intake counselor that the two of them were at The Social Room and that Elliott had kicked them out of his private section.
She confirmed her early version of events, when she said another woman attacked her friend as they were leaving. She said no punches were thrown.
The friend said that when Elliott’s accuser approached Elliott and the woman driving his car, the two went around her and into the place he was staying. That’s when she called the police.
Intake counselor: So she didn’t call police because of something that had occurred when you guys went to the afterparty. She called the police because of what had happened before, right?
Accuser’s friend: Right, exactly.
The NFL agrees Elliott’s accuser lied to police: The NFL’s investigators interviewed witnesses about the fight outside The Social Room. They confirmed the friend’s statement, that Elliott’s alleged victim and the other woman did not punch each other.
Peter Harvey, one of four independent advisors to the investigation, acknowledged in a conference call that the alleged victim lied and asked her friend to lie about the events of July 22. “But as to other statements that she made, both to the Columbus DA as well as to NFL investigators, she was absolutely truthful about them,” Harvey said. (Harvey’s conference call)
What the police said: The police did not arrest Elliott due to “conflicting statements” and because they couldn’t verify if the two had ever lived together. They referred his accuser to the prosecutor’s office. (page 12)
July 22, 2016: The NFL confirms it will review the case
The NFL said that it would investigate the domestic violence allegations against Elliott:
Per an NFL spokesman, the Ezekiel Elliott matter will be reviewed under the NFL’s personal conduct policy
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) July 22, 2016
The league launches its own investigation into claims, even if a player isn’t charged with a crime.
July 25, 2016: Elliott’s accuser forwards the prosecutor’s office photographs of her injuries
The alleged victim sent the prosecutor’s office 20 photographs she had taken of her injuries. The photographs showed bruising on her hips, legs, neck, and arms, as well as several red marks on her right arm, hand, and neck.
Sept. 5, 2016: Elliott files harassment report against accuser
Elliott filed a report against his accuser to the Frisco (Texas) Police over an incident from two days prior. In the report, Elliott claimed she called him more than 50 times on Sept. 3 and that he told her she wasn’t supposed to contact him. He said she left a voicemail, which police recommended he keep.
Elliott also said she had hacked his email in July to get in touch with women Elliott had been involved with. Elliott said she had been calling the other women to say “untruthful things that can hurt his image,” per the police report. (Frisco police report)
Sept. 6, 2016: Columbus prosecutor’s office announces no charges against Elliott
The City’s Attorney Office, Prosecutor Division in Columbus, Ohio, released a statement saying it would not pursue domestic violence charges against Elliott “primarily due to conflicting and inconsistent information.” The prosecutor’s office reviewed the police report, witness statements, affidavits, medical records, photographs, and text messages.
Although Elliott was not charged, the NFL confirmed its investigation would continue to determine if he violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
“It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime,” the personal conduct policy states. “We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”
Sept. 21, 2016: Elliott’s accuser texts friend about blackmailing Elliott over sex tapes
As part of the NFL’s investigation, Elliott’s accuser turned over phone records. Included in the league’s 160-page was an exchange from September between the woman and a friend where they discuss using a sex tape to blackmail Elliott, according to documents obtained by Yahoo Sports.
Elliott’s accuser: What if I sold mine and Ezekiel’s sex videos
Her friend: We’d all be millionaires
Her friend: We could black mail him w that
Elliott’s accuser: I want to bro
Her friend: Let’s do it
Elliott’s accuser: Scared
Elliott’s accuser also registered “ezekielelliott sex vids” as an email address.
Per Yahoo, the league asked the woman about the texts and she admitted to the email address and having sex tapes of the two on her phone. However, she told the investigators that her purpose for having them wasn’t to blackmail Elliott.
October 2016: Elliott meets with the NFL investigators
The NFL’s investigators interviewed Elliott in late October, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
October 2016: Jerry Jones confronts NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel
At the NFL owners’ fall meeting, Jerry Jones was overheard loudly telling NFL investigator Lisa Friel, “Your bread and butter is going to get both of us thrown out on the street,” according to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham.
Jones later downplayed the encounter, saying the music at the hotel bar forced him to raise his voice. He told ESPN that he and Friel had a “good discussion.”
Oct. 31, 2016: Columbus prosecutor believes Elliott was violent with his accuser
Columbus prosecutor Robert S. Tobias told USA Today in an email that he believed Elliott had been violent with his accuser, but didn’t think his office had the evidence to pursue charges:
“I personally believe that there were a series of interactions between Mr. Elliott and (his accuser) where violence occurred,” Tobias wrote, via USA Today. “However, given the totality of the circumstances, I could not firmly conclude exactly what happened. Saying something happened versus having sufficient evidence to criminally charge someone are two completely different things.”
Tobias later told the NFL investigators that he did not think the woman lied to his office. He said “we generally believed her for all of the incidents.” (page 4)
March 11, 2017: Elliott pulls down a woman’s top at a St. Patrick’s Day parade
Elliott was caught on camera pulling down a woman’s top during a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas. The woman’s bare breast was exposed in public. No charges were filed, but the NFL reviewed the incident and spoke to the woman. In its letter to Elliott, the NFL said “your behavior during this event was inappropriate and disturbing, and reflected a lack of respect for women.”
Although the incident did not factor into his suspension, the league told him “it suggests a pattern of poor judgment and behavior.” (page 5)
May 2017: NFLPA turns over Elliott’s phone records
In May, the NFLPA, along with Elliott’s representatives, gave into the investigation’s “longstanding request” for Elliott’s phone records, per a USA Today report.
June 26, 2017: Elliott meets with independent advisors
Elliott and his team met with the investigation’s four outside advisors: Peter Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general; Kenneth Houston, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame; Tonya Lovelace, a domestic violence expert and CEO of the Women of Color Network, Inc.; and Mary Jo White, a former U.S Attorney.
“We reviewed over 100 exhibits provided by the NFL. We reviewed just hundreds — a couple hundred pages of statements and information, and we reviewed extensively submissions offered by Mr. Elliott’s representatives as well as the information that the NFL gathered,” Lovelace told SB Nation.
Elliott told them his version of what happened the week of July 17, 2016. His representatives also discussed any concerns they had about the advisory committee’s investigation reports, which had been passed along to them on June 7.
Later, the four advisors all separately met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to give him their opinions of the case. Goodell, who would make the decision about whether or not to suspend Elliott, was not present for Elliott’s meeting or any other hearings about Elliott, according to a Deadspin report.
Elliott’s accuser fully cooperated with the NFL’s investigation. She talked to league investigators “multiple times,” according to the Washington Post. However, Goodell did not meet with her, per Pro Football Talk.
July 22, 2017: Elliott’s accuser posts about her “very toxic relationship” with Elliott
Elliott’s accuser referenced her relationship with Elliott, and the police report she filed a year before, on social media.
“Exactly 1 year ago today my life changed forever,” she wrote, via TMZ. “Loving someone as much as I did, putting my all in no matter what happened. I finally got the strength to be the strong woman I was and got myself out of a very toxic relationship. Ladies never think you’re too in love or too scared to leave because at one point that was me. There’s plenty of opportunities out there for you. Love yourself first. Speak up and stop domestic violence.”
July 23, 2017: Jerry Jones says there’s no evidence against Elliott
At the start of training camp, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones publicly supported Elliott when asked about the investigation.
“I have reviewed everything. There is absolutely nothing, not one thing I’ve seen that has anything to do with domestic violence. I’ve seen nothing,” he told USA Today.
Aug. 11, 2017: NFL hands Elliott a six-game suspension
The NFL announced that it suspended Elliott for the first six games of the 2017 season. After the yearlong investigation, the league determined Elliott had been physical with his accuser three times during the week of July 17.
What the NFL said
The NFL’s chief disciplinary officer, B. Todd Jones, sent Elliott the letter that detailed the reasons for the suspension. The decision to suspend Elliott for six games was solely Goodell’s.
In the letter to Elliott, the league said the investigators talked to more than a dozen witnesses and examined photographs, thousands of texts, and metadata that allowed them to see when photos were taken.
Harvey said in his conference call that not all witnesses cooperated. A number of witnesses were offered affidavits but declined interview requests for the investigation. Harvey said that “raised suspicions” with the committee. He did not say which witnesses they were. Harvey also said that “at least one of the affidavits” was different than the statement given to the NFL’s investigators. Again, Harvey did not give names. (Harvey conference call)
The league said Goodell’s decision was based on the alleged victim’s injuries before July 22. The letter told Elliott that Goodell found “there has been no persuasive evidence presented on your behalf with respect to how [the accuser]’s obvious injuries were incurred other than conjecture.” (pages 4-5)
Harvey agreed. He thought Elliott’s representatives gave flimsy possible reasons for his alleged victim’s injuries.
“We also examined the arguments made by Mr. Elliott’s representatives, and the arguments seemed to be theoretical. They did not seem to be supported by any witness, any document, any other substantive evidence,” Harvey said. (Harvey conference call)
What Elliott and his reps said
Hours after the suspension was announced, Elliott’s attorneys, Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum, said they would fight it.
“The NFL’s findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it ‘cherry picks’ so called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evidence,” Salzano and Rosenblum said in a statement, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
After pointing out the accuser’s false statement to police, Elliott’s attorneys added, “the NFL’s own medical experts concluded that many of her injuries predated the week in question and likely occurred during a period of time when Mr. Elliott was not in contact with the accuser. During the upcoming weeks and through the appeal a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light.”
Elliott also posted a personal statement on his Twitter account about the suspension:
Aug. 15, 2017: Elliott officially files an appeal
On behalf of Elliott, the NFLPA filed an appeal of his six-game suspension.
The strategy for Elliott’s appeal became clear: His lawyers would try to establish that his accuser was not a credible source.
Leaks from the NFL’s investigation report, including her threats to ruin his career, and her texts with a friend about potentially blackmailing Elliott, came out around the same time. The investigative report also noted that Lisa Friel “was “unable to give an clear endorsement of [the accuser]’s credibility because she repeatedly misled investigators,” per documents obtained by the Star-Telegram.
Aug. 16, 2017: Goodell appoints Henderson to hear appeal; NFL and NFLPA trade insults
Goodell had the option to hear Elliott’s appeal himself or appoint a designee. He chose to name Harold Henderson as the arbiter of the appeal hearing. In recent years, Henderson oversaw the appeal hearings for high-profile cases involving Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson.
Later that day, the NFL and NFLPA started attacking each other publicly. First the NFL accused the NFLPA of victim-shaming, and then the NFLPA forcefully denied it.
Aug. 29, 2017: Elliott’s appeal hearing is held in New York
Elliott attended the appeal hearing in New York. However, Henderson will not make the accuser attend or testify, according to Pro Football Talk. He also refused a request from Elliott’s team to make notes from the accuser’s interviews with the NFL available during the hearing.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said that followed the NFL’s typical process and that accusers are normally not present during appeals. Rapoport also reported that forensic evidence from the investigation will be permitted Tuesday.
The NFLPA brought on attorney Jeffrey Kessler to handle Elliott’s appeal, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Kessler most recently represented Tom Brady during his Deflategate appeal.
Rapoport reported early Tuesday evening that the appeal would be heard into Wednesday.
The appeals hearing for #Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott will continue into Day 2, source said. Still ongoing. No end in sight.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 29, 2017
ESPN’s Dan Graziano later reported the hearing will now last three days, into Thursday. The NFL changed its mind and will allow one witness, though not the alleged victim, to be interviewed via phone on Thursday.
Those testifying Tuesday included Elliott, a forensic expert brought in by the NFLPA, and Kia Wright Roberts, the NFL’s director of investigations, per Graziano.
Aug. 30, 2017: Elliott’s appeal heads into second day
According to a source of ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the NFL’s investigation had “enormous showings on inconsistencies” at Elliott’s appeal.
Aug. 31, 2017: Appeal hearing ends
Elliott’s appeal hearing wrapped up early Thursday afternoon, after three days and 25 hours. With the start of the Cowboys’ season just over a week away, there is reportedly pressure on Henderson to have a decision by Monday.
Aug. 31, 2017: Elliott sues to vacate suspension
Late Thursday night, Elliott’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Texas to vacate whatever suspension results from the appeal process. The lawsuit’s main contention is that there was a “league-orchestrated conspiracy . . . to hide critical information.”
The lawsuit hinges on testimony from Elliott’s appeal hearing that revealed the NFL director of investigations, Kia Roberts, concluded that the accuser “was not credible in her allegations of abuse” and recommended no suspension for Elliott. That was not was not included the league’s investigative report. Further, Roberts was barred by Lisa Friel, Special Counsel for Investigations for the NFL, from the meeting with Roger Goodell where they arrived at the decision to suspend Elliott.
Roberts was the only person who interviewed both Elliott and his accuser.
In the hearing, Roberts said she spoke to Elliott’s accuser six times, two of which were considered interviews.
“As I was looking through that additional evidence, if you will, of what had occurred on different evenings, whether that was the photographs that she took or text message communications or speaking to other witnesses, there were concerns that I had about her credibility,” Roberts said. (page 48)
In addition to Elliott’s suit, the NFLPA has filed for a restraining order to block any suspension for Elliott.
Sept. 5, 2017: NFL files motion to dismiss Elliott’s lawsuit
Citing the fact that the decision hasn’t been made yet, the NFL, as expected, filed a motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit the NFLPA filed on behalf of Elliott. The NFL also petitioned to have the case moved from a Texas court to New York.
The NFLPA then filed a reponse to the NFL’s opposition. It also revealed we should expect to hear a decision on Elliott’s suspension by the end of the day:
The NFLPA filing says Harold Henderson has informed the parties he’ll rule on Zeke appeal by close of business today. So here we go.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 5, 2017
Sept. 5, 2017: Elliott’s six-game suspension is upheld
Harold Henderson came to his decision Tuesday, as promised:
Ezekiel Elliott 6 game suspension has been upheld by Harold Henderson, per source
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 6, 2017
In a statement, Henderson said that it was his duty to determine if Goodell was “arbitrary and capricious” in his decision to suspend Elliott, but it was not his duty to “second guess his decision.”
“[Goodell] is entitled to deference on those judgments absent irregularities not present here. While the record contains inconsistencies in statements, an adjudicator makes informed judgments on the credibility of witnesses and evidence,” Henderson said.
But Elliott will still play in Week 1 while the NFLPA awaits a ruling on its attempt to block a suspension. That won’t come until Friday:
Just got out of court and got phone back. NFL took position Ezekiel Elliott CAN play Sunday. Judge rules by 5 pm Friday on restraining order
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 6, 2017
Whatever happens next, it won’t be the end of this battle. Elliott’s team is prepared to challenge the suspension all the way:
Sept. 6-8, 2017: NFLPA and NFL went back and forth, again
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, the NFLPA filed a motion following Henderson’s decision to uphold Elliott’s suspension.
The Dallas Morning News obtained the document, which argued that the ruling “does not change anything about the evidence of fundamental unfairness, irreparable harm, or balance of hardships” that it laid out in its petition for a temporary restraining order.
On Thursday, the NFLPA filed another response to the NFL, and the NFL responded a day later, as the back-and-forth continues:
Sept. 8, 2017: Judge grants injunction, blocking Elliott’s suspension
Judge Amos Mazzant granted the NFLPA’s request for a preliminary injunction.
“Based upon preliminary injunction standard, the Court finds, that Elliott did not receive a fundamentally fair hearing, necessitating the Court grant the request for preliminary injunction,” Mazzant’s ruling read.
That means Elliott will be on the field for the Cowboys until this plays out in the court — so most likely the entire 2017 season.
Sept. 10, 2017: Elliott reacts to court win
After the Cowboys’ 19-3 win over the Giants in Week 1, Elliott spoke publicly for the first time in months. He called the injunction a relief.
“Just relieved from the fact that I finally get a fair trial,” Elliott said, via Pro Football Talk.
“This really has to do with what our league’s responsibility is, given the privilege that we have as a league,” Jerry Jones said, according to Yahoo Sports.
Sept. 11, 2017: NFL files appeal of injunction
The NFL filed an appeal of Elliott’s injunction and an emergency stay. The appeals process is often lengthy:
So for now, Elliott will continue to play.
Sept. 13, 2017: NFLPA asks court to deny the NFL’s stay motion
The NFLPA filed its opposition to the NFL’s appeal.
“The NFL faces no threat of irreparable harm if the stay is not granted, while others, including both Elliott and the Cowboys, will suffer substantial — in fact, severe and irreparable — harm,” the NFLPA said.
The NFL responded hours later and said it would file an emergency stay to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals if Judge Mazzant does not issue a ruling by the next day.
Sept. 15, 2017: NFL files appeal for stay to higher court
The NFL followed through on its promise after Judge Mazzant did not reach a decision by Thursday. On Friday, the league filed an emergency stay to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to implement Elliott’s suspension as soon as next week.
The NFL argued that “no one’s interests are served by delaying that discipline based on a misguided order by a district court that lacked jurisdiction.”
Elliott’s representatives fired back:
And the NFLPA wasn’t having any of it:
The NFL wants a ruling by no later than Sept. 26, 2017, when Week 4 practices begin.
Sept. 18, 2017: Judge Mazzant denies the NFL’s stay
Judge Mazzant finally issued his decision in the NFL’s request for an emergency stay. He denied the motion, although the NFL is still seeking a stay with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals:
Elliott’s status for the next 6 games is now in the hands in the Fifth Circuit. If a stay is granted, the suspension begins immediately.
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) September 18, 2017
That could be decided this week at the earliest.
Sept. 22, 2017: Date for oral argument set for NFL’s stay motion
The 5th Circuit will not abide by the NFL’s request for a decision by Sept. 26. Instead, oral arguments have been set for Monday, Oct. 2:
Oral argument on NFL’s motion to stay injunction in Ezekiel Elliott case is set for Oct. 2 in New Orleans — day after Week 4 game vs. #Rams
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 22, 2017
That means Elliott will play in Weeks 3 and 4.
Oct. 2, 2017: Oral arguments heard in New Orleans
Both the NFL and NFLPA argued before the three-judge panel in New Orleans. The NFL is asking the court to throw out the stay that’s put Elliott’s suspension on hold. There will be no decision Monday, but one is expected soon:
Zeke Elliott hearing is over. There will not be a ruling today although both sides agreed to an expedited decision.
— Rebecca Lopez (@rlopezwfaa) October 2, 2017
If the court sides with the NFL, then Elliott’s six-game suspension could be implemented right away. If the court sides with the NFLPA, then Elliott will continue to play this season.
Oct. 12, 2017: Court rules in NFL’s favor; Elliott’s suspension could begin
On Thursday, the 5th Circuit Court ruled in favor of the NFL, throwing out the district court’s preliminary injunction due to lack of jurisdiction. (In other words, it ruled that the NFLPA filed with the district court in Texas too soon, since Henderson had yet to announce the suspension was upheld.)
That sets Elliott up to serve his six-game suspension after the Cowboys’ Week 6 bye. The NFL announced that Elliott’s suspension will begin “immediately,” but Elliott and the NFLPA will likely file a temporary restraining order motion in New York:
It is entirely possible that, just like before Week 1, Elliott gets a preliminary injunction AGAIN, and this again gets put on hold.
— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) October 12, 2017
His lawyers have not made a decision yet, though.
“We are currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days,” Elliott’s lawyer Frank Salzano said.
The NFLPA’s response noted that the NFL’s win was based on jurisdiction, not merit. “The appellate court decision focuses on the jurisdictional issues,” the NFLPA said. “The failures of due process by the NFL articulated in the district court’s decision were not addressed.”
Oct. 13, 2017: NFLPA will ask circuit court for rehearing
The NFLPA will ask the 5th Circuit Court for an en banc hearing. If granted, the motion would be heard before every judge on the court rather than the three-judge panel that sided with the NFL on Oct. 12.
The odds are not in Elliott’s favor:
If that doesn’t work, Elliott and the NFLPA can still try to refile in New York or Texas. So this isn’t over yet.
Oct. 16, 2017: NFLPA files temporary restraining order in NY court
There’s been no decision on the en banc ruling yet, but the NFLPA is still trying to delay Elliott’s suspension again. As expected, the NFLPA filed for a temporary restraining order in New York:
Source: The NFLPA has already filed for an emergency TRO in NY in Elliott’s case. Filed an hour ago. I’m told t/ plan is to argue tomorrow.
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 16, 2017
Right now, Elliott is suspended. If the TRO is granted, he will be cleared to play in Week 7.
Oct. 17, 2017: 5th Circuit rules that Texas court must dismiss case
In its decision to lift the preliminary injunction that was keeping Elliott on the field, the 5th Circuit court ruled that the U.S. District Court of Eastern Texas must dismiss Elliott’s case. When the NFLPA filed for an en banc hearing with the 5th Circuit, they also asked that the court recall the mandate that the case be dismissed. The 5th Circuit denied that motion on Tuesday.
Oct. 17, 2017: Elliott’s suspension on hold again after TRO granted
A federal court in New York granted Elliott’s temporary restraining order that once again puts his suspension on hold. Elliott will play against the 49ers in Week 7, but the TRO only lasts until Oct. 30 or until the presiding judge, who is currently on vacation, hears the case.
Oct. 20, 2017: NFL wants next hearing moved up to next week
The NFL has asked the court to move up the preliminary injunction to next week, before the Cowboys play Washington.
As expected, the NFLPA does not want that to happen:
Earlier in the day, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said that the NFL was “confident” it would still win in court.
Oct. 30, 2017: Elliott’s appeal hearing held in New York
After the Cowboys’ win over Washington Sunday, Elliott said he’ll be at his appeal hearing in New York Monday.
#Cowboys Zeke Elliott will attend his appeals hearing in NY tomorrow: “Just trust my legal team… make sure I am on the field next week.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 30, 2017
Elliott was in court Monday, where both the NFL and NFLPA argued before Judge Katherine Failla. Judge Failla said she will rule before the day is over:
Judge Failla says “I have the bones of the decision. I am going to work on it and I will get it to you tonight.”
— Pete Brush (@PeteBrush) October 30, 2017
Oct. 30, 2017: Elliott’s suspension is back on, maybe for good this time
As promised, Judge Failla issued her ruling late Monday night. She sided with the NFL, denying Elliott’s request for a preliminary injunction. However, the motion will not take effect for 24 hours, giving the NFLPA time to figure out its options for appeal. The union can ask for an en banc hearing with all of the 5th Circuit judges or file an emergency appeal with the Southern District Court of New York.
But unless anything changes, Elliott’s six-game suspension will start this week. He won’t be eligible to return until Week 15 against the Oakland Raiders.
Oct. 31, 2017: NFLPA’s appeal is denied
The judge denied the NFLPA’s appeal motion in the Southern District Court of New York. So it’s on to appeals court for Elliott and the NFLPA.
Nov. 1, 2017: NFLPA files emergency motion with higher court
The next step for the NFLPA is the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals:
BREAKING: NFLPA files emergency motion with Second Circuit to prevent NFL from suspending #Zeke Elliott for duration of appeal
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) November 1, 2017
It would like a decision by the end of the week. For now, Elliott remains suspended.
Nov. 3, 2017: Elliott granted emergency stay and can play Sunday
The NFLPA’s bid for an emergency stay paid off. Elliott is now eligible to play this weekend against the Chiefs.
However, it’s for this week only. Elliott’s suspension will be in effect again next week unless a three-judge panel in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals grants the NFLPA’s preliminary injunction. That would allow him to continue to take the field while the NFLPA’s appeal of his suspension plays out in the courts.
Nov. 6, 2017: Elliott’s next hearing set for Thursday
A three-judge panel in the 2nd Circuit Court will hear arguments about Elliott’s preliminary injunction on Thursday, Nov. 9:
Here we go again: hearing on Ezekiel Elliott’s motion for injunction in 2nd Circuit to keep him on the field during case is set for Thursday pic.twitter.com/o5AuNdUA6G
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 6, 2017
If granted, Elliott will continue to play. If denied, his suspension is back on.