Appeals Court Sides with NFL, Rules Ezekiel Elliot Suspension Can Stand

Posted on: October 13, 2017, 05:18h. 

Last updated on: October 13, 2017, 05:18h.

Ezekiel Elliott may have run out of options in his effort to reverse his six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.

Jerry Jones and Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (left) and Ezekiel Elliot (right) are running out of time to resist Elliot’s suspension in a complex domestic violence ruling that puts the league at odds with a player, a team, and an uncertain players union. (Image: Sporting News)

On Thursday, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans granted the NFL’s request to set aside a previous court injunction that effectively blocked the league’s suspension of the Dallas Cowboys’ star running back, and allowed him to play while the issue was being litigated. The court voted 2-1, ordering the lower court to dismiss Elliot’s lawsuit.

League executives were quick to announce that the suspension was effective immediately, though the team has a bye week and doesn’t play again until Sunday, Oct. 22, in San Francisco. That will give Elliot’s attorneys time to determine their next move.

“We are currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days,”’ Elliott attorney Frank Salzano said in a statement.

Elliott practiced with the Cowboys on Thursday and then left before the decision was announced and was unavailable for comment.

Reversing Decisions

The court ruled on procedural not substantive grounds that Elliott’s lawyers were premature in seeking their emergency injunction. Elliot filed his claim after an NFL arbitrator concluded that Commissioner Roger Goodell’s initial suspension decision was fair.

“The procedures provided for in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA were not exhausted,” 5th Circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod and Edward Prado wrote for the majority. “The parties contracted to have an arbitrator make a final decision. That decision had not yet been issued.”

Judge James Graves disagreed that the suit was filed prematurely and said they followed proper procedure in his dissent.

What happens next could be more legal challenges by either Elliot’s lawyers or the NFL Players Association. Officials that represent team members said they might file litigation on his behalf.

“The NFLPA is reviewing the decision and considering all options,” the players’ union said in a statement Thursday. “The appellate court decision focuses on the jurisdictional issues. The failures of due process by the NFL articulated in the District Court’s decision were not addressed.”

Domestic Violence Policy

If the NFLPA decides to fight the case, they could appeal to the Southern District of New York, where league offices are located. But a decision in Elliott’s favor would have to be made before the San Francisco game in nine days. Otherwise he would miss that game and if the suspension is upheld, the next five contests, returning Nov. 30 against Washington.

Elliot initially received his six-game suspension in August, after a year-long investigation concluded that the second-year running back had been violent towards his then-girlfriend over a five-day period in July 2016. The penalty was an automatic standard for a first offense under terms of a revised personal conduct policy that the league enacted in December 2014.

Elliott has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and his attorneys pointed out that he was not arrested nor charged for any crime after police investigated.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been publicly supportive of Elliot and his right to play, while also threatening to bench any player of his who doesn’t stand for the national anthem.