The already contentious six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott took on a new intensity on Wednesday when the N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association traded angry accusations over information related to the case.
Elliott was suspended by the N.F.L. last week after a yearlong investigation by the league into his behavior in July 2016, when his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of assaulting her five times in Columbus, Ohio, where he played at Ohio State.
Elliott, through the union, appealed that decision on Tuesday, and his case will be heard by Harold Henderson, a league-appointed arbitrator.
But on Wednesday the league took the unusual step of accusing the players union of “spreading derogatory information to the media” about Thompson, who was reported to have tried to blackmail Elliott. In its statement, the N.F.L., which has been loudly criticized in recent years of not understanding the needs of the victims in domestic violence cases, called the tactic “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 league said.
The N.F.L.P.A. quickly issued its own statement, calling the league’s charge “a lie” and denying the accusations that it had leaked information about Thompson.
“This is another example of the N.F.L.’s hypocrisy on display and an attempt to create a sideshow to distract for their own failings in the dealing with such serious issues,” the union said. “They should be ashamed for stooping to new lows.”
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