Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, whose behavior is under investigation by the NFL, has drawn unwanted attention because of an incident Sunday night in a Dallas bar.
Dallas police say that they were summoned to Clutch Bar at around 9:40 p.m. CDT because a 30-year-old patron said he had been physically assaulted by an unnamed man in the incident, which was first reported by 105.3 FM the Fan in Dallas. The man, a local DJ named Nkemakola Ibeneme, was taken to a hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening, no arrests were made and Elliott was not named on the police report. However, The Fan, TMZ, the Dallas Morning News and ESPN cited sources naming Elliott in what Dallas police told The Washington Post in an email is an ongoing investigation. A lawyer for the Cowboys star has not responded to a request from The Post for comment.
Later on Monday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted a man who claimed to be an eye witness and said that Elliott “didn’t throw the punch.” The man, a bouncer at another Texas bar who was in Dallas on Sunday evening, told the newspaper that he had a good view of the events because he was trying to get close to Elliott to take a selfie.
“Zeke was just standing there arms folded chilling feeling the crowd,” the man said in a message to the Star-Telegram. He claimed that as Ibeneme was “getting loud toward the vicinity” of the running back, he saw “an overhand right come over the back” of Elliott and land “square” in Ibeneme’s face, putting the latter “to sleep.”
Elliott, who will turn 22 on Saturday, led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, but has had an unsteady offseason away from the field.
An allegation of domestic violence, for which no charges were filed, has hung over the offseason and could result in his suspension. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Friday that “there’s a growing sense” that Elliott could face “some sort of short suspension here in the coming weeks at some point, once the NFL wraps up its investigation.” The NFL has denied that a decision on possible discipline has been made and the league typically closes shop until the opening of training camps.
Elliott’s judgment has been called into question at times during the offseason, drawing unneeded attention to him at a time when he is under investigation by the league. Among other things, he presently is appealing a misdemeanor conviction for speeding after being clocked driving at 100 mph in a 70-mph zone in April.
During a St. Patrick’s Day parade, he pulled down a woman’s top, a move that was captured on video. “There is not much that I want to say other than that was unfortunate and not good,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of the incident in late March. “It wouldn’t be the right emphasis one way or the other to get into any communications or dialogue since that happened.”
In February, Elliott, who played college ball at Ohio State, was with a friend who was arrested for trying to carry a firearm into a bar in Columbus, Ohio. Elliott, in a tweet that was later deleted, said: “I was never ‘detained’ by the police. Nor was I ever questioned or in any type of trouble.”
Last summer, Elliott visited a recreational marijuana shop in Seattle, where possession of small amounts is legal, just hours before a preseason Cowboys game. He made no purchase at Herban Legends, but his presence in the shop concerned Jones, given that the NFL considers the substance banned under terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association. “Well, I think that, in and of itself, the reason we are talking about it is in a way part of the learning process,” Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But it’s not good. It’s just not good. It’s just not good.”
In 2016, Ohio prosecutors opted to not pursue the allegation of domestic abuse. This summer, the NFL Players Association turned over phone records and other documents that league investigators were seeking, according to USA Today, and it appeared that the investigation was nearing an end. A woman who said she was an ex-girlfriend alleged that Elliott abused her over several days last July in Ohio. According to USA Today, the same woman called police on Elliott in February 2016 in Florida. She claimed that he tried to hit her in the face, threw her against doors and onto a bed, refusing to let her leave his apartment. Citing what it said was conflicting and inconsistent information on all alleged incidents, the Columbus City Attorney’s Office declined to file charges.
Under the NFL’s personal-conduct policy, which was revised when the NFL’s handling of domestic cases was condemned in the fall of 2014, a player can be suspended without being arrested or charged. Despite the new policy, the NFL has struggled to find its balance on the matter and came under fire last year for its handling of the case involving New York Giants place-kicker Josh Brown. Since then, the league promised to investigate such allegations thoroughly and that seems to be what is happening in the case of Elliott, who had hoped for closure in the matter as long ago as January.
Elliott seemed to understand that his success on the field led to greater scrutiny off it. “Just trying to learn to stay out of the way,” Elliott he told reporters during a June minicamp. “Whatever you do is going to be seen …
“You learn from your mistakes,” he said, “and if you don’t, it can be brutal. So it’s just part of life.”
Cowboys training camp opens July 24.