NFL would be stupid not to punish Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott

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Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott runs past Eagles middle linebacker Jordan Hicks during the first quarter on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.

At some point, we must acknowledge that stupid deserves whatever stupid gets.

Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is starting to show a tendency toward consistent stupidity.

Now we'll see whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is also habitually stupid.

On Monday, celebrity news/gossip site TMZ began showing video of Elliott standing on the roof of a bar in Dallas watching a St. Patrick's Day Parade when he suddenly reaches over to a woman and pulls down one side of her shirt, exposing her breast.

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In the video, the woman is seen waving her hands across her shirt several times and then pointing a finger at Elliott, who is standing next her drinking from a bottle.

Elliot takes a look at her chest and then pulls down a corner of her shirt exposing her breast. The woman quickly reacts and pulls her shirt back up.

TMZ aired more footage showing Elliott reaching again for the woman's shirt. This time she quickly slaps his hand away.

It must be noted that the woman then pulls her shirt down herself to show her breast to the crowd.

A representative for Elliott told TMZ that it was all in good fun, that the woman was not upset and that she hung with Elliott and his friends afterward.

It might be easy to dismiss the incidents as no big deal, particularly since the woman obviously made the conscious decision to expose her breast herself.

If Goodell does that, he would miss the point.

Regardless of what the woman did moments later, Elliott's pulling down of her shirt could be classified as sexual assault. If she filed charges, it would be up to the justice system to determine what happens next.

The NFL's personal conduct policy is not about determining a player's criminal guilt or innocence. It is a public relations tool meant to protect the Shield and try to help maintain positive perceptions about the league.

The NFL has never been able to adequately grasp the PR nightmare that it fails to take the issue of domestic abuse as seriously as it should.

Each new incident involving a player and lewd behavior toward women makes it seem as if the NFL only plays lip service to the issue.

Elliott's incident certainly isn't on par with former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée or former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy beating up a girlfriend and threatening her with several assault weapons nearby.

The kicker, however, is that the commissioner's office is already investigating Elliott over domestic abuse allegations by a former girlfriend.

While prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, dropped charges last year, the NFL is still investigating the claims that Elliott abused the woman five separate times.

Here's where "stupid deserves what stupid gets" comes into play.

If there is any NFL player who should be smart enough to not get involved in a possible incident of sexual assault, it would be one already under investigation for a different incident of possible violation of the league's personal conduct policy.

If for no other reason than punishing sheer dumbness, Goodell should lean heavily toward fining and/or suspending Elliott, depending on what is found in both the current investigation and the one that should be launched over the Dallas incident.

What Elliott did over the weekend shows a blatant disregard for a policy for which the NFL has received a ton of negative attention.

It damages the Shield.

Goodell spent millions of dollars in court fees to win the right to suspend New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for participating in the minor deflation of footballs, but had to be publicly embarrassed to seriously punish Rice for cold-cocking his fiancée.

Even after Rice eventually was suspended, released and blackballed from the NFL, the league and Goodell's reputation still have not fully recovered from the initial bumbling.

Some people will say it would be unfair for Goodell to basically punish Elliott as an example or warning to other players. If that happens, then Elliott has no one but himself to blame for putting himself in that kind of jeopardy.

In 2010, when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games for violating the personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual assault but not charged, Goodell justified the punishment by saying, "My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated (the) law. You are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct ... that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans ...

"Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare."

If Goodell doesn't use the same reasoning regarding Elliott, it would just be stupid.

smallwj@phillynews.com

@SmallTerp