Federal Judge Amos Mazzant has granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the 6-game suspension for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. This means that Elliott could play the entire 2017/18 season.
Elliott’s 6-game suspension for a domestic violence dispute was set to begin on Monday, after they played the New York Giants.
Last month, we covered how Elliott could potentially bar the NFL from suspending him. And he’s at least delayed the process with help from the NFL Players Association.
ESPN reports that if Elliott’s request failed, he could’ve appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now he won’t have to do that while the legal process continues.
Elliott’s attorneys are pleased with the decision and happy to have dealt with a third party.
“We are very pleased that Mr. Elliott will finally be given the opportunity to have an impartial decision-maker carefully examine the NFL’s misconduct,” Elliott’s attorneys said. “This is just the beginning of the unveiling of the NFL’s mishandling as it relates to Mr. Elliott’s suspension.”
Why did the NFL Suspend Elliott?
He cited evidence the league obtained showing that the former Ohio State Buckeye abused his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. Elliott disputes the claims.
Text messages from Thompson to her girlfriend cast doubt on her character. And Columbus authorities decided there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue charges.
But the NFL cites that their personal conduct policy has a lower burden of proof than criminal convictions. On the advice of a 4-person advisory committee, Goodell chose to punish Elliott based on limited evidence. ESPN, however, reports that lead NFL investigator Kia Roberts was not onboard with discipline due to Thompson’s credibility issues.
Why Judge Mazzant Suspended Elliott’s Suspension
“The question before the Court is merely whether Elliott received a fundamentally fair hearing before the arbitrator. The answer is he did not,” Mazzant wrote in court papers.
“The Court finds, based upon the injunction standard, that Elliott was denied a fundamentally fair hearing by [Harold] Henderson’s refusal to allow Thompson and Goodell to testify at the arbitration hearing.”
Mazzant added that the “NFL’s breach of the [collective bargaining agreement] is only compounded by Henderson’s breach of the CBA. Specifically, Henderson denied access to certain procedural requirements, which were necessary to be able to present all relevant evidence at the hearing.”
The NFL released their own statement that disagrees with Mazzant.
“We strongly believe that the investigation and evidence supported the Commissioner’s decision and that the process was meticulous and fair throughout,” read the statement.
NFL Players Association Strongly Backs Elliott
They cite a lack of “fundamental fairness,” especially how an independent arbitrator wasn’t appointed. The NFLPA has also complained how they couldn’t cross examine Thompson.
They issued the following statement:
“Commissioner discipline will continue to be a distraction from our game for one reason: because NFL owners have refused to collectively bargain a fair and transparent process that exists in other sports,.
“This ‘imposed’ system remains problematic for players and the game, but as the honest and honorable testimony of a few NFL employees recently revealed, it also demonstrates the continued lack of integrity within their own League office.”
A Look at Other High-Profile NFL Suspensions
Many parallels are being drawn to Elliott’s case and Tom Brady’s Deflategate case. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady was initially successful in fighting off a 4-game suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell.
But he was suspended last year for the first 4 contests after the Southern District of New York 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the suspension.
New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson was suspended over a child abuse case in Texas during his Minnesota Vikings days. Henderson upheld his punishment, but a federal judge later overturned it.
The NFL has tightened its stance on domestic violence after botching the Ray Rice case three years ago. The Baltimore Ravens running back was caught on tape punching his wife unconscious in an elevator.
Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel believes that the Rice case is playing into this matter. Here’s an excerpt from Wetzel:
“Everything these days is a reaction to the league doing a poor job investigating Ray Rice. Then, the NFL failed to follow through and acquire the ugly elevator surveillance tape, only to be horrified and humiliated when the video later emerged. Now, it supposedly presses everything.
“Any investigative and judicial system, however, has to be rooted in transparency and fairness, or else whatever verdict it renders – even seemingly the most justified – is compromised. To cut corners is to undermine not just the righteousness of the decision, but the victim seeking justice.”
Wetzel also states how badly the NFL handled this case:
“The most glaring issue is NFL investigator Kia Wright Roberts testified at Elliott’s appeal hearing that she would not have recommended suspending Elliott in this case. She cited a lack of corroborating evidence, both via witnesses and other data, to back up Thompson’s story. She was the only person from the NFL to speak to Thompson.
“The NFL is within its rights to reject the opinion of its investigator, but doing so warrants an explanation. Rather than provide one in its original ruling that deemed Elliott’s actions “inappropriate and disturbing,” the league failed to mention Robert’s counter-opinion at all.
“The NFL just acted like it didn’t exist. Or, more likely, operated under the belief the counter-opinion would never get out.”
Cowboys Odds with Elliott Now Playing
The Dallas Cowboys odds have been given a slight bump in value following the announcement that Elliott will play for the foreseeable future.
We’ve shifted their 2017/18 Super Bowl odds from +1400 to +1300 at GTBets. This isn’t a giant bump, but it shows that we believe Elliott is a game-changing talent.
He tallied 1,631 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 322 carries. Elliott added another 363 yards on 32 receptions in his rookie season.
The main reason why Dallas’ odds didn’t shift more is because they have a brutal schedule. But potentially having Elliott the entire year improves their chances of winning the NFC East.
Last season they went 13-3 and earned a first-round bye. However, they lost a close Divisional Round playoff game to the Green Bay Packers.