Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games Friday after a yearlong NFL investigation of his domestic violence case in Ohio.
The 2016 NFL rushing leader was suspended despite prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, deciding a year ago not to pursue the case involving Elliott’s girlfriend at the time in the same city where Elliott starred for Ohio State.
The league said there was ‘substantial and persuasive evidence’ that Elliott had physical confrontations last summer with his then-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson.
Elliott will be eligible to return to the active roster on Oct. 23.
Elliott has three days to appeal the ruling. One of his agents didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The NFL Players Association said it was reviewing the decision and had been in touch with Elliott’s representatives.
The league revised its personal conduct policy in 2014 following sharp criticism of a case involving former Baltimore running back Ray Rice.
The policy gave Commissioner Roger Goodell authority to suspend players for at least six games in domestic cases, with or without a conviction.
In a letter to Elliott informing him of the league’s decision, NFL special counsel for conduct Todd Jones said advisers brought in by the league ‘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.’
The Ohio case was the first in a series of off-field incidents involving Elliott in his first year after the Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft.
He finished with 1,631 yards rushing in helping the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC at 13-3 before a divisional playoff loss to Green Bay.
Elliott was seen in a legal marijuana shop during the preseason in Seattle last year and was caught on video pulling down a woman’s shirt during a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas this past spring.
He was also involved in a bar fight in Dallas a week before training camp.
The NFL has dealt with numerous infractions involving its players and the law.
One of the game’s most recognizable athletes, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, plead guilty to one count of reckless assault in 2014 when he was accused of abusing his son.
The charge, a misdemeanor, came with a $4,000 fine and an order to perform community service.