The NFL will ask a federal appeals court to reverse last week’s ruling that granted Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott an injunction keeping on hold his six-game suspension by the league under the personal conduct policy.
The league filed notice of its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. If the NFL prevails, the injunction would be lifted and Elliott would serve his suspension while the legal challenge of his penalty would continue to play out in court.
U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III on Friday granted the NFL Players Association’s request for a preliminary injunction for Elliott. Mazzant ruled that Elliott would suffer irreparable harm if forced to serve his suspension with his case pending. Mazzant, following a hearing earlier last week in federal court in Texas, also ruled that Elliott and the NFLPA met the other criteria for an injunction, including the likelihood of success in court on their underlying case.
Mazzant found that Elliott did not receive a fair hearing before league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson, in large part because Henderson did not force NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Elliott’s accuser in a domestic violence case to testify at Elliott’s appeal hearing. Henderson, a former labor executive for the NFL, upheld the six-game suspension imposed by Goodell.
The league’s request for a stay of the injunction technically is made first to Mazzant. Assuming that the judge does not reverse his own decision, the request then is made to the appeals court. NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the league will seek expedited action on its request for an emergency stay on the injunction.
“We thought the process [of Elliott’s discipline and appeal] was fair and we meticulously adhered to the collectively bargained agreement,” Lockhart said in a conference call with reporters.
It is not clear when the appeals court will rule on the NFL’s attempt to have the injunction lifted. It remains possible that Elliott will be eligible to play all season amid the courtroom maneuvers.
Lockhart also confirmed that the league will not place Elliott on what amounts to paid leave on the commissioner’s exempt list, as reported Sunday by The Washington Post.
There could be jurisdictional issues in the case as well, with the NFL having filed a competing lawsuit in New York in an attempt to have the suspension and Henderson’s ruling affirmed.
Elliott played in the Cowboys’ season-opening triumph Sunday night over the New York Giants in Arlington, Tex.