We must interrupt your carefree summer to bring you bad news about the Dallas Cowboys.
Concern is growing about the team’s talented running back, Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliott, and his activities outside of football.
A news brief earlier this week mentioned Elliott’s name in connection with an alleged assault inside a Dallas bar that resulted in a victim having a broken nose. There were no arrests, and the victim reportedly said he didn’t know who assaulted him.
An online TMZ Sports story states that someone at the bar said a man who was slugged during the incident “was involved in a verbal altercation with a woman who was in Ezekiel’s party … when Ezekiel got involved. The witness says she saw Ezekiel punch the man — corroborating the story the victim’s friend told police. However, cops at the scene could not confirm Elliott was the attacker and he has not been arrested or charged with a crime.”
Another online report quoted someone who claimed to be an eyewitness saying that Elliott was not the one who injured the man.
Fans know how exciting Elliott is on the field. He ran for an NFL-leading 1,631 yards in only 15 games and was named first-team All-Pro as a rookie.
Reporters and people in general have their radar pointed toward Elliott now, but he doesn’t seem to have learned that lesson.
It’s long past time that Elliott should be behaving like a man instead of a goofy college party clown. If he continues down this path, being around the wrong people for the wrong reasons, it’s not likely to end well.
Unfortunately, not all high-profile athletes have the impressive personal integrity of tennis star Roger Federer, who just won a record eighth Wimbledon men’s singles title and 19th Grand Slam. Federer seems to represent the ultimate in class — a family man and philanthropist who behaves well on and off the court. Yet he manages to show humility in victory and grace in defeat.
Federer is a role model’s role model.
Elliott is hardly a lost cause, but he’s also no Roger Federer.
He should be receiving strong advice from the Cowboys and some of his veteran teammates about the cold facts of life in the NFL. During Dallas TV Channel 5’s coverage of the Elliott story on Monday night quoted several former Cowboy greats, including Charles Haley who said, “You start taking his money away from him — he’ll grow up.”
Haley reportedly had some growing up to do when he was a young NFL player, so he may have a good perspective.
Some bad characters with anger issues — and a little too much alcohol — may see a pro athlete as a target for their frustrations. They may envision getting into a confrontation with a famous NFL star like Elliott as a ticket out of their pathetic little world to have 15 minutes of fame.
There have been other off-field incidents that caused a few ripples for Elliott. The latest was a report that he was ticketed for driving 100 mph.
Previous red flags involving Elliott included allegations of domestic abuse of a former girlfriend in Ohio and Florida.
Criminal charges are not being pursued, but that doesn’t mean the NFL won’t suspend Elliott. The league has been trying to show the public that it won’t go easy on hulk-like athletes abusing women.
As Haley suggested, a fine — and I would add, at the most, a one-game suspension — might be the best thing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could do in Elliott’s situation. Remember, Elliott still is not facing any criminal charges.
You may recall that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger served a suspension from the NFL in 2010 after he was accused of two sexual assault incidents. Not convicted — accused.
That ugly story has been bothering me ever since, and not just because of my natural dislike for the Steelers.
Both of the cases against Roethlisberger were dismissed, but they would have carried far more severe penalties in court than the assault allegations against Elliott.
I feel that if Roethlisberger committed even one sexual assault, he should have been banned for life from the NFL, and should still be serving a major prison sentence. Even a first offense on sexual assault proved in court should not carry a light sentence. A second conviction for that crime — God forbid — should bring life without parole.
But if Roethlisberger was falsely accused, then the NFL was wrong in suspending him without real proof.
Even though it’s not the same level of offense, Goodell may be tempted to suspend Elliott just to avoid additional controversy.
Goodell suspended superstar quarterback Tom Brady over disputed allegations over deflated game balls. Elliott was a star rookie last season, but has light-years to go before he joins the orbit in Tom Brady’s elite universe.
The assault allegations against Elliott — made by his ex-girlfriend, before he was in the NFL — appear to have faded into the ether. So how could Goodell justify suspending him for multiple games? Do Goodell’s rulings and suspicions supersede our criminal justice standards?
Goodell absolutely should have the authority to suspend players who deserve a penalty for misconduct, whenever it’s appropriate. Most teams won’t suspend their own players, leaving it up to the league.
If Goodell has evidence showing that Elliott was guilty of assaulting a woman, then give him a suitable suspension — and a hefty fine. The money should be donated to a safe shelter for battered women, not to the NFL. Then the commissioner should immediately turn over the evidence to prosecutors in Ohio and Florida.
If not, leave Elliott alone.
Don’t worry. The ultimate judge in such ugly matters isn’t concerned about making a ruling to improve the public’s perception of the NFL.
Mark Wilson is a senior reporter for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter.