Riders get OK from CFL to sign player with a domestic violence arrest

The Saskatchewan Roughriders say they received permission from the CFL to sign a former NFL first-round draft pick who was charged with domestic violence in May of 2017.

The Baltimore Ravens selected defensive back Matt Elam in the first round, 32nd overall of the 2013 NFL Draft. Elam played three seasons in Baltimore – missing the entire 2015 campaign with a torn biceps – starting 26 of the 41 games he suited up in making 131 tackles, defending seven passes while intercepting one ball.

The Ravens released Elam after he was arrested in February 2017 and charged for possession with intent to sell or deliver, possession of a controlled substance and reckless driving. Police said they found 126 grams of marijuana and six oxycodone pills in his car. The charges were eventually dropped.

But the following May, Elam was charged with battery and theft stemming from a dispute with his then-girlfriend. From a story in the USA Today that quotes the police report:

“Matthew stated he grabbed (the girlfriend’s) cell phone from her hands in an attempt to to take it since she was refusing to give him his money,” the officer wrote in the report. “While trying to grab the phone from her hands, Matthew and (his girlfriend) went to the ground and continued to struggle over the cell phone.”

Elam told police his girlfriend then went into the his vehicle and took his cell phone. When she refused to give it back, Elam said, he left the area.

The girlfriend suffered lacerations to an index finger and foot in the exchange, according to the police report.

ESPN reported the charges were dropped after the accuser didn’t cooperate with the investigation

Riders head coach Chris Jones said the team spoke to the CFL before signing Elam. While the league has a domestic violence policy, it does not apply to players entering the CFL and the league has handled each situation on a case-by-case basis. Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Johnny Manziel, for example, was prevented from signing with the club for several months and was required to meet unspecified conditions in order to play.

“The league we put it in their hands and they went through everything that they needed to do and gave us the go-ahead. Once we got the go-ahead with them then we went ahead and brought him up. We just comply with the CFL rules,” Jones said. “At least it takes it out of the teams and individuals hands we’ve got certain guidelines we go by and if they say no we shut the door on it and go to the next guy.”

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