The latest development in the legal tussle between the league and players’ union over Elliott’s suspension presumably keeps Elliott eligible to play in the Cowboys’ game Sunday at San Francisco and potentially in their Oct. 29 game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
The NFL and NFLPA remained at odds in court even while players met Tuesday morning with owners at the league’s offices in Manhattan to discuss issues related to the players’ protests during the national anthem. Players and owners described those conversations as being productive, and owners emerged from a full day of meetings without requiring players to stand for the anthem. But in the Elliott case, the league and union stayed on opposite sides.
The temporary restraining order was granted by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty. It will remain in effect until Oct. 30 or until the presiding judge in the case, Katherine Polk Failla, rules on the NFLPA’s request for a preliminary injunction.
The NFL had declared Elliott’s suspension to be in effect beginning this week after convincing a federal appeals court in New Orleans to last week lift the preliminary injunction that had been granted to the NFLPA by a federal judge in Texas.
The courtroom maneuvering has kept Elliott in the Cowboys’ lineup despite the suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the decision by league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson to uphold Goodell’s suspension.
The league determined after a lengthy investigation that Elliott, in its view, was guilty of committing violence against his former girlfriend in a series of incidents last year in Ohio. Authorities in Columbus did not charge Elliott with a crime. The suspension was upheld by Henderson, the former league labor executive assigned by Goodell to hear and resolve Elliott’s appeal.
The NFLPA filed its legal challenge in Texas and was granted a preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III. Mazzant ruled that Elliott did not receive a fair hearing before Henderson, in large part because Goodell and Elliott’s accuser did not testify.
The suspension was reinstated when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granted the NFL’s request for a stay of the injunction. A three-judge panel of that court ruled, in a 2-1 decision, that the district court in Texas did not have jurisdiction because the NFLPA filed its case there before Henderson issued his ruling in the appeal. The NFLPA pointed out that the appeals court did not rule on the merits of the case. It asked the full appeals court for a re-hearing and sought to have Mazzant keep the injunction in place until Elliott’s appeal had been resolved.
Meanwhile, the venue shifted to the Southern District of New York, where the league had filed a lawsuit seeking to have Henderson’s decision on Elliott’s appeal affirmed.
The additional problem that the NFLPA faces in New York is the precedent in place there from the legal fight over Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension. The case played out there and the NFLPA initially was able to have Brady’s suspension overturned at the district court level, keeping him eligible to play for the New England Patriots’ entire 2015 season. But Brady served the suspension by sitting out the first four games of last season after the NFL prevailed on appeal, a decision that seemed to reinforce Goodell’s authority in player disciplinary matters.
The Cowboys are coming off their bye week and take a disappointing 2-3 record into their game Sunday against the winless 49ers. Elliott has had an inconsistent season after leading the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie. But he’s coming off a very good performance in the Cowboys’ most recent game, as he ran for 116 yards in a 35-31 defeat to the Green Bay Packers in Arlington, Tex., on Oct. 8.