Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is officially suspended by the NFL after federal judge in New York rejected his motion for a preliminary injunction.
Judge Katherine Failla of the Southern District of New York said Elliott and his NFL Players Association legal team failed to demonstrate a substantial question warranting the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief.
Moreover, the court ruled that the NFL was fair in its investigation and arbitration process per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s personal conduct policy.
Elliott has 24 hours to file an emergency appeal.
What it means now is that Elliott must immediately begin serving his suspension, stemming from NFL’s year-long investigation into domestic violence allegation of former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson, while the full case plays out in the Southern District Court.
Elliott will now miss games against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Falcons, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.
He’ll be eligible to return on Dec. 17 against the Oakland Raiders.
Failla went against previous decisions by federal judges who sided with Elliott against the NFL based on fundamental unfairness of the NFL investigation and the arbitration process, allowing him to play the first seven games of the season.
Federal judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas gave him the initial preliminary injunction allowing him to play the first five games.
Paul Crotty, the fill-in judge in the Southern District of New York, gave him a 14-day temporary restraining order to allow him to play the past two games until Failla returned from vacation and heard the case on Monday.
Failla, however, rejected all of the arguments of Elliott and his legal team including fundamental fairness, irreparable harm and public interest.
Regarding the NFLPA’s claims of fundamental unfairness stemming from lead investigator Kia Roberts’ opinions, questions of Thompson’s credibility and whether NFL vice president Lisa Friel covered it up, Failla found no basis.
“This argument confuses Roberts’ views concerning Thompson’s credibility, which were both sought by and communicated to the Commissioner, with her views concerning the propriety of discipline, which were not similarly sought,” she wrote. “The arbitrator found that “all the statements and inconsistencies” underlying any doubts that Roberts or Friel harbored about Thompson’s allegations were ‘included in the Investigative report and other materials provided to the Commissioner for his review.’
“And while Friel’s testimony on whether Roberts’ view that the evidence was insufficient to discipline Elliott may have appeared to equivocate, she clearly testified that the basis of Roberts’ contrary view — Thompson’s credibility — was communicated to the Commissioner.”
Failla said the NFL didn’t have to compel Thompson to testify in the arbitration hearing.
And on the issue of irreparable harm, she said “the harms identified by the NFLPA are either speculative, insufficient to warrant the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief, and/or outweighed by the concerns identified by the NFL management council.”
And she put down the haymaker on public interest regarding harm to Elliott, NFL players, Cowboys fans and the NFL if he suspended by an unjust process.
“This position, however, takes a one-sided view of the public interest,” she wrote. “The pertinent terms of the CBA reside at the crossroads of the public’s desire for the controlled carnage that is the sport of football and the NFL’s ability to discipline players for off-the-field violence. With this in mind, the Court finds that the public interest weighs in favor of denying injunctive relief… particularly where the relevant CBA implicates the ability of those in positions of authority to address an issue as dire as domestic violence.”
It’s a huge setback for the Cowboys (4-3), who have won two straight games after a disappointing 2-3 start, especially with the 2016 NFL leading rusher seemingly finding his old groove again.
Elliott, who ranks third in the league in rushing with 690 yards, had a career-high 33 carries for 150 yards in Sunday’s 33-19 victory against the Washington Redskins. It was his third straight 100-yard game and third career game over 150 yards dating to last season.
The Cowboys will go with Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden in place of Elliott.
Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys built their roster knowing that a suspension was possible.
“We have some veteran running backs, we have some depth at that position,” Garrett said earlier on Monday. “It’s not like we’re just living this day and we don’t think about the future at all — you have to do that. I think you build your team that way at all positions.
“If this guy is not able to play, who’s your backup? Who can go in? That’s the way you construct your team, and you’re always thinking about those scenarios. We’ll take it one day at a time and we’ll see what his situation is. Regardless, we’re going to go forward and try to play our best football.”
This case and fallout, however, is far from over.
It will get even more intense with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who believes the NFL should get out of the investigation business and leave that to the court system.
Elliott was never arrested or charged in the case as the Columbus (Ohio) City Attorney cited inconsistent and misleading testimony, yet the NFL believes it has evidence of three instances of domestic violence when it made its initial decision to suspend Elliott on Aug. 11.
“What is important is that he gets a fair shake,” Jones said. “Zeke has in no way by any standard in this country done anything wrong. He’s done nothing wrong. We the league has tried to say that he’s done something that we disagree with; we all don’t agree with that. I want him to get a fair shot. He deserves that.
“We don’t have the system in place for this. We tried to make one up in a few short months and it’s got too many ways to not be fair for a person like Zeke. I know this, we have a pretty good system in place in this country it’s called the legal system. It has a lot of precedents and it’s made a lot of mistakes but it’s the best one in the world, in my view. For us to not basically recognize that, that’s a concern.”