Ezekiel Elliott’s instincts are impeccable on the football field.
Too bad that doesn’t transfer to his decisions away from the game.
The Cowboys running back thought — actually, it’s a stretch to imply any thinking was involved — it was fine to pull down a woman’s top and expose her breast during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration over the weekend. Elliott’s actions were captured on video and echo well beyond Lower Greenville in Dallas, where the episode took place.
This incident in and of itself may not lead to any repercussions by the club, which has no comment, or the NFL. But it speaks to a pattern of behavior that indicates trouble for the young star may not be far down the road.
There are domestic abuse allegations prosecutors in Ohio decided not to pursue and an NFL investigation that remains open on the same case. Elliott visited a recreational marijuana shop in Seattle a few hours before a Cowboys preseason game and was at a bar in Columbus, Ohio last month when one of his closest friends was arrested for trying to carry a firearm into the establishment.
His actions Saturday have generated a fascinating split on social media. Condemnation of what Elliott did is offset by those who brush it off as no big deal, as a momentary lapse of judgment that often occurs in these raucous environments.
Circumstance and setting are no excuse. Are you suggesting every woman who attends a St. Patrick’s Day or Mardi Gras parade opens herself up to this sort of treatment? Are you arguing every man who gets caught up in the moment and exposes the woman standing next to him should be excused for his behavior?
A subsequent video shows the woman raising her top and flashing the crowd. This is proof to some that what took place with Elliott is acceptable and overblown.
Sorry, but it doesn’t matter if the woman exposed herself to the crowd before or after the incident with Elliott. That was her choice. It doesn’t give Elliott permission to do it for her.
Elliott did nothing wrong when he visited that marijuana shop in Seattle. The drug is legal in Washington and all reports state he didn’t purchase anything.
The optics, as they say, weren’t good. That’s what hurt him there.
What Elliott did Saturday was wrong and the optics are worse.
The NFL deserves criticism for its handling of the initial allegations against the Cowboys running back. As the investigation enters its ninth month, it smacks more of a public relations ploy to show fans how seriously the league takes the issue of domestic abuse than it does an attempt to get to the truth.
Substituting inaction for a decision gives the league cover if another issue presents itself but isn’t fair to Elliott.
Now, for the sake of discussion, let’s say the NFL was prepared to announce later this week that it had concluded its investigation and, like prosecutors in Columbus, found no conclusive evidence that would result in a fine or suspension for Elliott.
How can the NFL do that now? The narrative would be how the league cleared Elliott of domestic abuse charges days after he groped a woman in public and exposed her breast. His actions give the league license to drag its feet even more.
Club officials will comment on what happened at some point. Owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett will likely say the Cowboys don’t condone this sort of behavior and that Elliott has to be smarter about his choices. Jones and Garrett will say they have spoken to the 21-year-old and he understands his actions were wrong.
Then everyone will move on and the conversation will quickly turn to how Elliott is a great football player and teammate.
Elliott is a great football player. Players and coaches respect the talent, work ethic and enthusiasm he brings to the Cowboys. It’s also clear in his 11 months with the franchise that he lives close to the flame.
It’s only a matter of time until he gets burned.
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