Barring further injunctions, the Dallas Cowboys running back would begin to serve his suspension on October 22nd.
USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension has been reinstated after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district court’s preliminary injunction Thursday and instructed the lower court to dismiss the case.
The Cowboys have a bye this week before facing the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.
The 2-1 decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant granted a temporary injunction in the case, which he ruled was “fundamentally unfair.” Because Elliott filed prior to arbitrator Harold Henderson’s ruling on his suspension, judges Edward C. Prado and Jennifer Walker Elrod ruled that the running back had “had not yet exhausted the contracted-for remedies.”
Asked by USA TODAY Sports about Thursday’s ruling, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart said in an email he had “nothing to add to the court’s ruling.”
The most likely next step for Elliott could be to pursue the case in New York, where the NFL has already filed a case on the matter. The NFLPA could ask the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York — the same venue as New England quarterback Tom Brady’s Deflategate case — to issue an injunction.
“We could have the same results that we had in Texas’ district court and Elliott could be again granted at temporary restraining order,” sports law attorney Daniel Wallach told USA TODAY Sports. “The argument of deprivation — that Elliott would suffer irreparable harm if he was suspended unjustly — haven’t diminished. In fact, there’s tremendously more harm since the Cowboys are nearing the middle of the season. That (irreparable harm) argument becomes even stronger.”
The NFLPA could also re filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas since lower-court judges rarely go against an appeals court’s recommendation. Lawyers from the NFL Players Association representing Elliott could ask for a rehearing in front of all 13 judges of the 5th Circuit, known as an en banc petition. But such rehearings aren’t granted often, and Elliott would remain suspended if one is granted.
If Elliott serves his suspension, he would miss games against the 49ers, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. He would be eligible to return against Washington in Week 13.
The NFLPA did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Thursday.
Oral arguments were held in front of a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. Pratik Shah, the lawyer who represented the NFL in the hour-long hearing, argued that the NFLPA improperly filed its case in the wrong jurisdiction and the filing came before Henderson upheld Elliott’s appeal of his suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.
“Then you would have parties filing placeholder lawsuits in case they eventually lose the arbitration,” Shah said. “They have manipulated the court and manipulated the rules in order to to dit. That would unleash a wave of these placeholder lawsuits and that has never been recognized under the history of arbitration law.”
NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler countered that since Elliott’s appeal hearing had concluded — even if the decision by Henderson had not been rendered — the filing to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas was justified.
“When the tractor trailer is running at your house, you don’t have to wait to get run over,” Kessler said.
While Elliott was not arrested or charged by prosecutors, the NFL cited statements from Elliott’s former girlfriend and photos that showed injuries Elliott allegedly inflicted in July 2016 for the basis for his suspension. The six-game ban is the baseline punishment for domestic violence under the league’s personal conduct policy, which was updated after former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence case.
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