Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ezekiel Elliott: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

By Anthony Brancato

It looked as if Ezekiel Elliott was going to walk away from his latest brush with the law.

But then the security guard he assaulted pressed charges against him and changed all that.

This whole kerfuffle started on May 19, when the two-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All Pro was briefly detained, including being handcuffed, by Las Vegas Metropolitan police at about 3 AM at the Electric Daisy Carnival, which is actually an electronic dance music festival, after allegedly bumping Kyle Johnson, a 19-year-old college football player working the music festival, and pushing him backward into a metal fence. (A video of the incident was captured by TMZ — as if you didn't know.)

After a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on July 2, Goodell decided not to discipline Elliott.

On July 12, however, Johnson decided to press charges in the case, which sheds a whole new light on things — especially because Elliott already has a "personal conduct" suspension on his record, serving six games in connection with a domestic violence incident in 2017.

Repeat offenders hardly ever get off in the NFL — so if Goodell exercises due diligence, the Cowboys are likely to open the 2019 season without their, well, cowbell, especially since Goodell has proven time and again that he has no respect whatsoever for the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." To him, "the shield" — the NFL's "reputation" — is all that matters.

But then again, this commissioner does not always exercise due diligence — and therein lies the problem.

In Kansas City, wide receiver Tyreek Hill's fate had been allowed to twist in the wind for months — during which time the Chiefs basically wasted a draft pick by selecting Mecole Hardman, a virtual Hill clone, in the second round of April's draft — a pick that would have been far better spent strengthening a defense that was simply awful in 2018 and very likely kept them out of the Super Bowl.

And now it has just turned out that Hill was completely innocent all along, the NFL announcing Friday that he would not be suspended for allegedly breaking his 3-year-old son's arm — and that Hill's on-again, off-again fiancee, Crystal Espinal, actually committed the assault on the child in a case of "Munchausen Syndrome by proxy," which doesn't even deserve to be dignified by trying to describe.

Is there a double standard in the NFL — one for "the two New York teams and the Dallas Cowboys," as Herschel Walker put it back in 1983 when he explained why he chose the USFL over the NFL (Walker signed with the former's New Jersey Generals, which now-President Donald Trump bought in the second year of the team's, and the league's, three-year existence), and another for "unimportant" small-market teams with essentially no following outside their local fan base like the Chiefs?

If Goodell wants to deliver the things that the owners want in the next collective bargaining agreement — with the 18-game schedule at the absolute top of their to-do list — he is going to need a high degree of unity, as 24 "yes" votes are necessary for any changes to be made. And treating teams differently based on how big or "important" their markets are is no way to get there.

As for Ezekiel Elliott, an old saw applies to him:

Experience is a dear school — but fools will learn in no other.

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