Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-Game Suspension Reinstated After Appeals Court Ruling

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) on the field before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium.
(Photo: Tim Heitman, 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 NFL said in a statement the suspension would be effective immediately. 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 not yet exhausted the contracted-for remedies.”

Frank Salzano, a lawyer for Elliott, wrote in a statement that his team is “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.” The NFLPA did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Thursday.

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. Lawyers from the NFL Players Association representing Elliott could ask the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York — the same venue as New England quarterback Tom Brady’s Deflategate case — to issue an injunction.

“We could very well have the same results that we had in Texas’ district court and Elliott could be again granted a temporary restraining order,” sports law attorney Daniel Wallach, a partner at Becker & Poliakoff, told USA TODAY Sports. “The ‘fundamental fairness’ issue and the irreparable haven’t diminished with time. In fact, there’s significantly more harm now since the Cowboys are nearing the middle of the season. That (irreparable harm) argument becomes even stronger.”

The NFL filed a letter Thursday with U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York notifying that court of the appeals court’s decision.

David Weinstein, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson and a former assistant U.S. Attorney, said there are two other avenues: refile the case again in Texas or seek a rehearing in front of all 13 judges of the 5th Circuit.

“If he refiles in Texas, the NFL still has their jurisdictional argument and they have already filed a suit in New York, so they beat him to that courthouse,” Weinstein said.

Elliott’s suspension could remain on hold if he seeks a rehearing, known as an en banc petition, Weinstein said. But the 5th Circuit could deny the rehearing within weeks and few are granted.

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SOURCE: USA Today – A.J. Perez