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NFL warns Ezekiel Elliott of ‘potential banishment’ for further violations

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Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys takes a knee in the end zone before the Cowboys played the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on December 26, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The NFL may be without one of its biggest stars, as the league announced in a statement Friday that Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

With that suspension also came a stern warning by the league directly to Elliott in writing: Another violation of this nature could lead to an even bigger punishment.

CNN has obtained a letter dated Friday to Elliott from the NFL advising him of the decision. It was written by Todd Jones, the NFL’s special counsel for conduct, with the letter saying that the decision on the suspension was for violations involving “physical force against a woman in the context of an intimate relationship.”

“You must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement, and must not commit any additional violations of league policies,” Jones wrote. “In that respect, you should understand that another violation of this nature may result in your suspension or potential banishment from the NFL.”

Jones also said four external advisers “were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that (Elliott) engaged in physical violence against (the alleged victim) on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”

Elliott wasn’t charged in the July 2016 domestic violence allegations. However, the letter explains, a player can still be found to have violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy even if he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

In the letter, the league says it interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in connection to the domestic violence allegations, including the alleged victim. The NFL’s investigation also looked at photo and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other electronic communications records. The letter also says two medical experts were consulted regarding identification, causation, and aging of certain injuries to the alleged victim as depicted in relevant photos, and those experts provided written reports.

“Based on the entire record, the credible evidence establishes that on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016, you used physical force against (the alleged victim) resulting in her injury,” Jones said.

In addition to the allegation of domestic violence from 2016, the letter references a March 11 incident where Elliott was seen in Dallas pulling down a woman’s shirt and touching her breast. Elliott was watching a St. Patrick’s Day parade from the balcony of a local restaurant at the time, and the incident was captured on video and social media. The woman didn’t file a complaint, and there was no arrest.

The letter states that Goodell determined that the March 11 incident in Dallas “will not be considered separately as a basis for additional discipline” under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

“You should understand, however, that your behavior during this event was inappropriate and disturbing, and reflected a lack of respect for women,” Jones wrote. “When viewed together with the July incidents, it suggests a pattern of poor judgment and behavior for which effective intervention is necessary for your personal and professional welfare.”

CNN has not heard back from Elliott’s representatives. The NFL Players Association released a statement Friday saying it is reviewing the decision and has been in touch with Elliott and his representatives to consider all options. Elliott has three days to appeal the suspension.

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