Two years ago, the NFL aggressively disciplined Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the Personal Conduct Policy, suspending him for six games despite no arrest, no charges, and not even a civil lawsuit alleging assault or battery in a domestic relationship. Regardless of any flaws in the NFL’s investigation or internal prosecution (and there were plenty), Elliott eventually served the suspension in full after dropping his legal fight.
And the suspension of Elliott came with this stern admonition: “You must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement, and must not commit any additional violations of league policies. In that respect, you should understanding that another violation of this nature may result in your suspension or potential banishment for the NFL.”
Now, a video has emerged showing Elliott in the face of a security guard at a music festival in Las Vegas, moving toward the guard and either causing the guard to fall down or, possibly, shoving him toward the ground with a right arm that potentially extended elbow first in the direction of the guard. Elliott was not arrested or charged with any sort of crime, and the Cowboys have no issue with what has come to light.
But that’s not the end of it, as Elliott and the rest of us learned in 2017. The league will do whatever the league is going to do, and the league typically does whatever it wants to do.
In this case, the league could take action, if it chooses to. The first specific example of prohibited conduct in the Personal Conduct Policy targets “[a]ctual or threatened physical violence against another person.” (Emphasis added.) Even if the league determines that Elliott made no contact with the guard, the league could conclude that Elliott converged on the guard — uttering “you got something to say?” — in a threatening manner, which prompted the guard to back away until he fell down.
If the league finds a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, it would be a minor one at worst. Given Elliott’s history, however, that could still lead to a major problem. “Repeat offenders will be subject to enhanced and/or expedited discipline, including banishment from the league with an opportunity to reapply,” the Personal Conduct Policy states.
Given the suspension from 2017, the warning communicated to Elliott at the time, and the league’s proclivity to take aggressive action against players accused or any type of violence regardless of criminal consequences or lack thereof, it makes sense to pay close attention to what the league does or doesn’t do in response to the emergence of a video that arguably shows enough to cause the league to conclude that Elliott is a repeat offender under the Personal Conduct Policy.