Did you catch that name?
In 2016 the Dallas Cowboys drafted running back Ezekiel Elliott, “Zeke” to fans. The rookie represented hope for a despairing team. Like many a Cowboy prospect, he brought baggage, but he was a charismatic champ from a lineage of pro athletes, a star who leapt defenders in a single bound and ran at lightning speed for substantial yardage.
Arguably, the branding of a renovated apartment complex near White Rock Lake was clever. Dallas-based S2 Capital purchased and launched a $5 million renovation on the rundown Grove apartments. Today it is modern, clean and relatively code-compliant (unlike its Grove days).
Old gray and brick exterior transformed to trendy rustic orange and distressed wood, a scheme that did not reflect the Dallas Cowboys or the name that S2 Capital christened its renovated project: The Zeke, a nod to Elliot, who hadn’t yet played one NFL game, but who was under criminal investigation for beating his girlfriend. (Calls to an S2 representative, who sent an August 2016 press release on the topic, have remained unreturned.)
The allegations against Elliot were questionable, pundits said at the time. “The fact is, Cowboys fans loved him and they [thought] the whole thing was a sham,” says ESPN’s Tim Cowlishaw. Sportscaster, writer and Lake Highlands resident Matt Mosley finds humor in the name. “Naming an apartment after a tailback who hadn’t played a down is silly in the first place.”
It was an exhilarating 2016 season, thanks largely to Elliot, who habitually hurdled defenders and rushed toward the end zone, charming cheering crowds with his signature “feed me” gesture and gleaming smile. But the 24-year-old never seemed to stay out of trouble long enough for accruing allegations of misconduct to escape the collective mind of Dallas sports reporters and fans. He reportedly was involved in a nightclub brawl. He yanked down a woman’s tube top, exposing her breast in public during Lower Greenville’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Feminist-leaning fans discerningly replaced Elliot T-shirts with less specific Cowboy gear.
“I was so freaking excited about Zeke, so pumped after the 2016 season, even though it ended too soon,” says Angie Swim, a 19-year-old “Cowboy fan for life” visiting her grandmother at The Zeke. “But, nope, I cannot wear the [Elliot] shirt. There’s too much evidence that something happened here.”
The NFL agreed. “The NFL’s disciplinary process does not carry the same burden of proof as the legal system,” according to Sports Illustrated reporters. “The league’s investigation determined Elliott was violent toward [his girlfriend] on three separate occasions.” After three appeals from the Cowboys, Elliot sat out six games, the baseline suspension for first-time domestic violence offenders, notes Sports Illustrated. Many felt he was treated unjustly; others said he needed the tough lesson — that too many NFL players receive a pass when it comes to bad behavior, legally substantiated or otherwise.
As the Cowboys’ and commissioner entreaties proceeded, a tangentially related national movement emerged. A growing group of women united to share accounts of powerful men who they said had sexually harassed them and thwarted their careers. Separately, last summer, at protests, rallies or PTA meetings, citizens of Dallas and those across the nation debated the removal and renaming of perceivably offensive statues and school names.
The Zeke never was mentioned — no surprise. It’s private property, not a public institution. No one really remembered it was named after Elliot.
“I had no idea these apartments were even named for a football player,” says a female resident who recently moved in. “That’s some BS, though. I mean, if he did it.”
Her male companion opines that Elliot “deserves nothing named about him because he hasn’t done anything on the field this year. Simple. Give me ‘Troubled Michael Irvin Apartments’ any day,” he chuckles.
Sportscaster Matt Mosley believes Zeke is a great player, but, so far, his off-field behavior has overshadowed his on-field brilliance. “If I owned [the apartments], I’d admit I jumped the gun and immediately rename them The Whitten or The Emmitt.”