Ezekiel Elliott's appeal of his six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence reportedly won't be heard until Aug. 29, but the fight has already begun. Earlier Wednesday, Yahoo Sports published a story on text messages that were sent between Tiffany Thompson -- Elliott's accuser -- and a friend. Those text messages reportedly demonstrate that Thompson suggested blackmailing Elliott with a sex tape.
It didn't take long for the NFL to respond. In a statement from Joe Lockhart, the NFL's executive vice president of communications, the league accused the NFLPA of "spreading derogatory information" about Thompson. Essentially, the NFL is criticizing the NFLPA for victim shaming and blaming. The NFL didn't directly reference Yahoo Sports' story, but given the timing, it seems likely that the story is what prompted the NFL to release a statement.
Here's the statement, via league spokesperson Brian McCarthy:
Over the past few days we've received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media about the victim in Ezekiel Elliott discipline case.
It's a common tactic to attempt to prove the innocence of the accused by discrediting the victim — in this case Ms. Thompson — when coming forward to report such abuse. Common or not, these tactics are shameful. 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.
The NFL's track record on domestic violence isn't good -- see how they handled the Ray Rice incident, the Greg Hardy case, and Josh Brown's admitted violence -- but the league isn't wrong here. As our Kevin Skiver wrote earlier Wednesday, even if Thompson did send those text messages, that "doesn't preclude the possibility that Elliott committed domestic violence. If someone goes through anyone's text messages, there's bound to be some dirty laundry." In short, the only reason a leak like that gets out is to discredit the accuser.
Shortly after the NFL's statement was released, the NFLPA released its own. It didn't mince words:
The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this 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 in dealing with such serious issues. They should be ashamed for stooping to new lows.
As previously mentioned, the NFL's track record is awful. So the NFLPA isn't wrong here either. And it shouldn't be considered a surprise that the NFLPA hit right back at the NFL. Expect it to continue.
Elliott filed his appeal Tuesday and according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, his appeal is expected to be heard on Aug. 29. The fight might not stop there. If Elliott's appeal fails, he could take the case to court.