Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott suspended 6 games for violating NFL Personal Conduct Policy

August 11, 2017

The season has not started yet and already the Dallas Cowboys have been dealt a major blow to their playoff hopes, as star running back Ezekiel Elliott was notified today by the NFL that he will be suspended without pay for the team's first six 2017 regular-season games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy.

The violation arose from an alleged domestic violence incident prior to his rookie year in which local law enforcement authorities in Ohio declined to file a criminal case against Elliott.

According to NFL rules, Elliott has three days to file an appeal, after which a hearing will be scheduled within 10 days.  If Elliott loses his appeal, he will miss the Cowboys’ games against the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers.

With Elliott out of the equation, the Cowboys will have to rely on veteran running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris to pick up the slack, as well as backup Rod Smith.  Both McFadden and Morris are former 1,000-yard rushers, so the dropoff might not be as disastrous as one may think.  Fortunately for Dallas, all three backs will be running behind the best offensive line in football.

According to the NFL's press release issued today, League investigators interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including the complaining witness, Ms. Tiffany Thompson, who had alleged multiple instances of physical violence in July 2016, and Mr. Elliott.

The league also consulted with medical experts. League investigators examined all available evidence, including photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications.

Shockingly, the investigators noted that much of this electronic data was not available to prosecutors at the time they made their decision declining to file a case against Elliott.  They also noted that the complaining witness made a false statement about one incident and asked another person to go along with that lie.  This other individual declined to do so.

Pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Goodell sought the views of four external advisors to assist him in evaluating potential violations. These experts range in experience from law enforcement, judicial and public service, and other specialized subject areas.

The advisors participated in a meeting on June 26, 2017 in New York City with Elliott, who was represented by his legal team and the NFL Players Association. The group also reviewed the league's investigative reports and materials, the expert medical reports, and multiple NFL Players Association submissions on Elliott's behalf.

In a letter to Elliott advising him of the decision, Todd Jones, the NFL's Special Counsel for Conduct, said these advisors "were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016."

After reviewing the record, and having considered the views of the independent advisors, the commissioner determined that the credible evidence established that Elliott engaged in conduct that violated NFL policy.

If he does not appeal, Elliott's suspension will begin September 2, the day of final roster reductions for NFL teams. He is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. Elliott will be eligible to return to the team's active roster on Monday, October 23 following the Cowboys' Sunday, October 22 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

One of the advisors, Peter Harvey, spoke with the media today.  Below is a partial transcript of his comments:
"We certainly did not tell the commissioner what to do; this was his decision to make. We were not authorized to decide anything, whether it be a violation or whether it be discipline." 
"There were over 100 exhibits to the investigation. The investigative report exceeded 160 pages. We also reviewed, each of us individually, the submissions by Mr. Elliott’s representative. We studied both; we examined very carefully the defense arguments, and we came to the conclusion – at least, I reached the conclusion individually – that Mr. Elliott engaged in physical force against Ms. Thompson, and that it caused injury."
"The eyewitness is Tiffany Thompson herself. She is a victim and a survivor. She took photos of her injuries. As the league examined the meta-data in the phone with respect to those photos, the league discovered the date on which those photos were taken. They were taken the same day as Ms. Thompson alleged she was injured by Mr. Elliott. We also examined the reports of two medical experts who are knowledgeable about violence issues, and evaluating injuries of violence. These medical experts corroborated many of the statements that Ms. Thompson made."
"We also examined the, as I said before, the submissions offered by Mr. Elliott’s representatives. One thing that was significant to us was that many of these people offered affidavits. They declined to be interviewed by the NFL’s investigators, which raised suspicions in our minds about the veracity of these witnesses. In at least one of the affidavits that I reviewed, the information was different in the affidavit than the witness gave to the NFL’s investigators when they talked to this particular witness. We also examined the arguments made by Mr. Elliott’s representatives, and the arguments seemed to be theoretical. They did not seem to be supported by any witness, any document, any other substantive evidence." 
"Her false statement that was revealed was she accused Mr. Elliott of yanking her out of a car on July 21st, really it’s the morning of the 22nd, because I think it was after midnight. That did not happen. And she did ask one of her friends to tell the police that it did happen and the friend had the good sense not to do that. That is true."
"Mr. Elliott’s representatives argued in a meeting that maybe Ms. Thompson fell down stairs. There was no witness to say she fell down stairs, and there were no photographs of her falling down stairs. Mr. Elliott’s representatives suggested that maybe because she was a server, what is called bottle service, that maybe she bumped into tables. There was no witness who saw Ms. Thompson bump into tables while serving anything. Mr. Elliott’s representatives suggested that maybe she was in a fight with another woman and the bruises, for example a bruise to her eye, and perhaps other bruises on her body, were sustained in that altercation. The NFL’s investigators talked to people who witnessed that altercation and it was revealed that neither woman landed a punch on the other, they pulled each other’s hair but they never hit each other with a balled-up fist or in any other way. Mr. Elliott’s representatives also suggested that maybe someone else did it, except there was never someone else who was revealed and identified as the person who would have done this." 
"What the NFL investigators learned was that on at least four nights between July 16th and July 21st, Mr. Elliott and Ms. Thompson stayed together in the same apartment in the same bedroom. And so these injuries did not just, at least in my judgment, magically appear on her body."


  • Peter Harvey, Esq., former Attorney General for the State of New Jersey.
  • Ken Houston, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who played in 14 seasons in the NFL.
  • Tonya Lovelace, MA, Chief Executive Officer of The Women of Color Network, Inc.
  • Mary Jo White, Esq., former United States attorney and former Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

By Staff of and news services

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