Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games as a result of domestic violence allegations Friday, according to multiple reports.
Elliott has three days to appeal the ruling, according to NFL rules.
The league released the following statement Friday:
Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys 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.
Over the course of the last year, the league conducted an extensive investigation. League investigators interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including 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.
Pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Goodell sought the views of four external advisors (see below) 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.
Elliott may appeal this decision within three days. 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.
A woman, who said she had a dating relationship with Elliott, reported multiple domestic violence incidents to authorities last year, including one in Columbus, Ohio, in July 2016 that led to a police investigation.
The investigation began when Columbus police responded to an apartment complex after the woman, who told police that she was Elliott's former live-in girlfriend, reported an assault in a 911 call. She claimed Elliott assaulted her while the two were in a parked car and alleged he also had become violent toward her in the days prior.
USA TODAY Sports does not identify alleged victims of domestic violence.
"(The alleged victim) stated that she had pain in her right wrist and a red mark, but declined medical treatment,” an officer wrote in the report.
The Columbus City Attorney’s Office chose not to file criminal charges, citing conflicting and inconsistent information. In a statement, Elliott denied the woman's accusations.
USA TODAY Sports also reported police in Florida were called after the same woman reported Elliott pushed her up against a wall in February 2016. The incident took place in Aventura, Fla., as Elliott prepared for the NFL draft.
The alleged victim told the responding officers that she was left with shoulder pain, although she declined to go to the hospital. Elliott wasn’t arrested, and the case was not forwarded to prosecutors for review.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had expressed frustration that the league's investigation, which began before Elliott played of his stellar rookie season, dragged on so long and expressed belief his young star would not be penalized.
The lengthy investigation came after the perceived mishandling of other players linked to domestic violence, including former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who received short suspensions before new information become public.
The NFL has a lower burden of proof, so players can be found in violation of its personal conduct policy even without an arrest or conviction. Players are subject to minimum six-game suspension for domestic violence, although that can be reduced or increased based upon the circumstances.
Beyond the alleged domestic violence allegations, Elliott also was linked to an assault at a Dallas bar July 16 that left one man with a broken nose. Police announced days later that they had suspended their investigation after detectives were unable to locate the man who was assaulted.
The league also reviewed videos and photos of Elliott pulling down a woman’s shirt, which exposed her breast, during a St. Patrick’s Day parade rooftop party in March.
The Cowboys' first six regular season games: vs. Giants; at Denver; at Arizona; vs. Rams; vs. Packers; at San Francisco.
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