Harold Henderson appointed to hear Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott's suspension appeal

By The Sports Xchange  |  Aug. 16, 2017 at 7:45 PM
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Harold Henderson to hear Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's appeal, the league announced Wednesday.

The hearing is scheduled to take place on Aug. 29, according to NFL Network, which first reported Henderson would be the arbiter for Elliott's appeal hearing and confirmed by ESPN.

The NFL Players Association on Tuesday officially appealed the six-game suspension handed down to Elliott, who was suspended by the league on Friday following a 13-month investigation for violating the league's personal conduct policy after multiple domestic violence incidents.

Henderson has been an appeals officer since 2008. He was the arbiter for the appeal hearings of former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy and then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Henderson reduced Hardy's suspension for alleged domestic violence from 10 games to four in 2015 and upheld Peterson's indefinite suspension for child abuse in 2014.

Elliott's former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic violence in Columbus, Ohio. Elliott, who was not arrested or charged in the case, has maintained his innocence all along.

The 22-year-old Elliott's appeal will focus on testimony given by Thompson to the NFL, according to documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is not required to be in attendance at the hearing, and can be involved through a conference call or teleconference.

According to the documents, Elliott will argue that Thompson made multiple threats to "ruin his career" and that text messages from Thompson encouraged a friend to lie to police about an alleged domestic assault in July 2016.

The NFL said in a statement Wednesday that it would be a "shameful" tactic to try to prove a defendant's innocence by discrediting an accuser.

"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," Joe Lockhart, the NFL's executive vice president of communications, said in a statement. "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 NFLPA responded with a statement of its own, calling the league's allegations that the union was spreading information about the case a "lie."

"The public statement issued on behalf of every NFL owner is a lie. The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this statement," the NFLPA statement read. "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."

The Columbus (Ohio) City Attorney's Office announced last September it would not pursue charges against Elliott because of "conflicting and inconsistent information."

Reporters asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about Elliott's suspension pending appeal following Tuesday's practice.

"I don't have anything to say about the appeal or anything about that issue today," Jones said, meeting with the media for the first time since the NFL's announcement. "But certainly I'll be visiting with you guys in the future, but right now today is just not the time for me to talk about it. I just really want to have my feet on the ground about it and just have it extremely well planned and thought out."

Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 5, refused to comment on his emotions about Elliott's suspension.

"Certainly we have the interest in our team and the interest in Zeke in it's right place," Jones told reporters Tuesday. "That's all I've got to say, but I'm best (not) to comment on this thing when I have all of our thoughts and plans in place."

The suspension is scheduled to begin Sept. 2 and Elliott is eligible to return to the Cowboys' roster on Oct. 23, one day after the team's Week 7 road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

As a result of the suspension, the guarantees in the four-year, $24.956 million deal Elliott signed with Dallas in 2016 will be voided, according to ESPN. He reportedly will forfeit $559,192 in 2017 salary.

The second-year running is coming off a sensational rookie season in which he rushed for a Cowboys rookie-record 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.

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