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Ezekiel Elliott got what he deserved, and Jerry Jones should be OK with that

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is reportedly angry that the NFL suspended his star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, six games for using physical force against a woman in 2016.

“Furious,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Jones should be furious … at Ezekiel Elliott, just as Elliott should be furious … at himself.

Somewhere along the way (and it wasn’t recently) this type of behavior became too easy to excuse if the perpetrator was a celebrity, in this case a talent that can make or break the Cowboys’ highly anticipated season. It shouldn’t.

The rules here are simple. Don’t hit women. Men are told that as boys, and whether the message is told often enough, or followed through by the men in their lives, shouldn’t matter. It’s clear. It makes sense. It feels right.

Don’t. Hit. Women.

This isn’t a gray-area thing. It’s a plague on society. It’s the act of cowardice. It’s a sign of significant emotional trouble.

It’s despicable, no matter how many touchdowns you can score.

Commissioner Roger Goodell is within his rights under the collective bargaining agreement to suspend Elliott. And aside from the obvious sense of right or wrong, he is obligated as someone trying to protect the business to come down on this type of behavior that can adversely affect the league’s bottom line. No one wants to support a company that supports perpetrators of domestic violence.

Elliott is free to appeal and he is encouraged to make his defense public. If he can clear his name, do it. Please. He no doubt has the means to fight back.

In the interim, with the information at hand, Goodell did the right thing here. That it took a 13-month investigation to make a decision isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and thoroughness.

If for nothing else, it’s a reminder to boys and men of all ages the significance of domestic abuse. Maybe that includes Jerry Jones. And Elliott himself.

If Jerry Jones wants to be furious over Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension, he should direct his anger not at the NFL but at his running back. (Getty Images)

The league has blown plenty of cases since Goodell took over the role of football sheriff. The Ray Rice case is most germane here. Leniency was given to Rice when he entered a pretrial diversion program. The league didn’t turn over every rock in trying to get to the truth. Eventually surveillance video of the incident emerged and rightful outrage erupted.

The NFL has vowed not to make that mistake again. The investigations are supposed to be relentless now. The league upped the penalty to six games. It has increased education about the problem. It is clear on warning everyone. And yet here we are, again.

The NFL’s letter to Elliott detailed three different incidents of physical violence over a stretch of days in July of 2016 to a then girlfriend in an apartment complex in Columbus, Ohio, where Elliott had played college ball. It cited photos, text messages and interviews with all parties. The opinions of local law enforcement, which didn’t pursue criminal charges, were included.

The NFL didn’t find Elliott’s story compelling.

“There has been no persuasive evidence presented on your behalf with respect to how [victim’s] obvious injuries were incurred …” B. Todd Jones, the league’s senior vice president, concluded in a letter to Elliott.

It’s fair to wonder, if there was this much evidence, why didn’t prosecutors in Columbus press charges. There are different standards at play here though, not to mention different levels of cooperation from the victim. There are also varying opinions and politics at play in every police department and district attorney’s office. While perhaps not the case here, in general, college towns have a history of being generous with former college stars.

In addition, the NFL cited Elliott with an incident caught on video where he pulled down the shirt of a woman at a 2017 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas. There was also a full investigation of that. While it wasn’t prosecuted either, the league was appropriately concerned.

The league actually did Elliott a favor by lumping that event in with the domestic violence. It could have labeled it a separate incident and enacted repeat offender penalties that are even harsher. If nothing else, the idea that Elliott, who knew he was under investigation for behavior toward women, would then behave that way (in public no less) was troubling, if not simply idiotic.

“Your behavior during this event was inappropriate and disturbing, and reflected a lack of respect for women,” the letter reads. “When viewed together … it suggests a pattern of poor judgment and behavior for which effective intervention is necessary for your personal and professional welfare.”

As such, part of Elliott’s punishment demands he attend counseling.

While the idea of the NFL serving as investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner is not ideal, that is the power the players’ union gave the league. It is also how many workplace issues go.

The NFL isn’t locking Elliott up. It is suspending him. Workers all over the country get suspended for things that don’t rise to the level of criminal prosecution. Once you choose to work for someone, you accept the defined boundaries.

Elliott hasn’t. At least not yet.

If the Cowboys are going to wage some victim campaign for him, if Jones is going to storm around the office “furious” at what the league has done to poor old Zeke, then he may never learn.

Why would he?

Six games for all of this isn’t much of a penalty. It’s an opportunity for Ezekiel Elliott to wake up, get accountable and be angry with the appropriate party … himself.

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