The National Football League slammed the sport's players union on Wednesday, accusing the body of seeking to smear the reputation of the accuser in Ezekiel Elliott's domestic violence case.
In an unusual, strongly worded statement, the NFL said it had received "multiple reports" that the NFL Players Association had been "spreading derogatory information" to the media regarding Elliott's victim.
The NFLPA later responded to the NFL allegation with its own blistering statement, denying the league's allegations and accusing it of "stooping to new lows."
Dallas Cowboys star Elliott was last week hit with a six-game ban for violating the league's personal conduct policy regarding an allegation of domestic violence by a former girlfriend in July 2016.
The NFLPA said Tuesday it would appeal the ban. US media reports said Elliott's legal team will attempt to discredit his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson, claiming she had threatened to "ruin his career."
However NFL vice president of communications Joe Lockhart warned that the league took a dim view of efforts to paint Thompson in a negative light.
"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," Lockhart said in a statement.
"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."
But the NFLPA Wednesday lashed out at the league statement, decrying it as "a lie."
"The NFLPA categorically denies the accusations made in this statement," the union said. "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 ... they should be ashamed for stooping to new lows."
In announcing Elliott's ban last week, the NFL said it had evidence that the running back had assaulted Thompson on "multiple occasions" in 2016.
Elliott, 22, had not spoken to media since the suspension was confirmed, stating only that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision.
His representatives issued a statement challenging the ban, saying the NFL had made "factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions", while promising that "a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence" would come to light.