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BREAKING NEWS: Cowboys' C.J. Spillman Accused Of Sexual Assault

The recent rash of NFL players accused of violence towards women has reached Dallas.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report in the New York Daily News, Dallas Cowboys safety and special teams player C.J. Spillman has been accused of sexual assault.

A Dallas Cowboys special teams player has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the team's hotel in Texas on Sept. 20 - and then being allowed to play the next day.

The alleged attack came just a day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's awkward news conference during which he promised to get tough on players accused of violent crime.

Police in Grapevine, Texas, told the Daily News that C.J. Spillman, 28, is "involved" in the investigation of a sexual assault that allegedly took place at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, the Cowboys' official hotel since 2009,

The woman who is making the accusation against Spillman has hired attorney Gloria Allred, a specialist in cases that garner media attention.

Although this is being linked to the issues surrounding the recent domestic violence issues such as the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, it is significantly different. First, this is not a domestic case, but involves an allegation of sexual assault by a woman with whom Spillman presumably does not have any relationship or family connection. Second, it is an allegation at this point, and nothing like the video or photographic evidence that was available in the Rice and Peterson cases has been revealed.

Ironically this news broke the same day Jason Garrett laid out the team policy on players involved in domestic violence cases, which is that they will not play. However, since this is not domestic violence, that policy does not apply.

This is presents some interesting challenges. Suppose, for instance, that the league suspended Spillman for six games, and then subsequently found out that the woman had made a totally spurious allegation. At the moment, there is nothing to suggest that there is any evidence that he actually committed a criminal act. The NFL is at some point going to have to consider the rights of the accused. For some reason, NFL players are being assumed to be guilty. Period. That is not viable and could lead to some serious liability for the league if they do unjustly penalize a player.

Until the team has some basis to go on, they can't just suspend a player due to an allegation. The American criminal justice system is not geared to making decisions about sitting or playing professional athletes in a timely and appropriate manner. With the civil rights protections that have been established over the past several decades, an NFL policy of suspending players could lead to some major headaches at some point if they are not paid. And paying them to sit out for a few weeks does not exactly serve as a serious deterrent. The league is going to have to come up with some way to evaluate the validity and credibility of charges before it takes action. Acting just because of an accusation has serious practical and legal problems.

An important factor in the Spillman case was that there was no arrest made at the time when the police met with him. If  the police find evidence of an assault, such as injury to the victim, they will arrest the suspect on the spot. The fact Spillman was not taken into custody indicates that the police lack proof he is the actor or that the charges are valid, or both. That does not say Spillman is innocent, just that the case against him has not been made at this point. It could, which would demand commensurate discipline by the Cowboys and the NFL. This could go several different ways, including some that would justify suspension, but it may take some time to find out what the team actually knows, and what the police are saying. There is likely to be a lot of misinformation about this along with a confusion of the differences between domestic violence and sexual assault as well as how conclusive the evidence is in the different cases.

All that is certain at this point is that this is far from over.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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