Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s lawyers argued Saturday in a court filing that there would be no irreparable harm to the NFL if Elliott continued to play while the case makes its way through the court system.
The filing said Elliott can always serve the suspension later this season or a season in the future.
Elliott and his lawyers from the NFL Players Association responded Saturday to the NFL’s motion to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of the Appeals in New Orleans seeking an emergency stay of a preliminary injunction against Elliott’s six-game suspension.
Conversely, it’s the NFLPA’s contention that Elliott, the Cowboys and their fans would suffer irreparable harm if he misses games, as Elliott would lose “half a season in a career that is notoriously short.”
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“The NFL’s Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal (“Motion”) seeks to upend the status quo and does not come close to meeting this Court’s standards for such extraordinary relief,” read the NFLPA response.
“It is for good reason that the Motion gives short-shrift to the equitable requirements for a stay: The NFL faces no irreparable harm should Ezekiel Elliott continue to practice and play pending appeal. If the NFL were to ultimately prevail, it could simply impose the suspension later this season or next. Elliott practiced and played for a year while the NFL investigated him; the NFL then permitted him to practice and play after his disciplinary appeal was denied; and it is the ordinary course for NFL players to play while challenging discipline. Maintaining this status quo weighs strongly against a stay.
“Nor can the NFL carry its burden to demonstrate that a stay would not substantially injure Elliott or other interested parties (the Cowboys and its fans).”
The NFL filed its emergency motion Friday, asking the appeals court to overrule a preliminary injunction blocking the suspension handed down by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman.
The NFL is hoping for a stay decision “by September 19, 2017 (when Week 3 practices begin), but no later than September 26, 2017.”
Elliott will play Sunday at Denver in Week 2 under Mazzant’s injunction. He was cleared to play by the NFL in the season opener against the New York Giants before Mazzant’s initial ruling and rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries in the Cowboys’ 19-3 victory.
A “stay” would prevent the injunction from going into effect throughout the outcome of the appeal, thus forcing Elliott to begin serving his six-game suspension.
Without an NFL win on the emergency request, the expected court timeline probably would allow Elliott to play most if not all of his entire second season. He led the league in rushing as a rookie.
Mazzant granted Elliott a preliminary injunction Sept. 8. The NFL appealed the decision and asked Mazzant to make an expedited ruling on an emergency stay of his own decision by end of business Thursday.
Mazzant has yet to rule.
The NFLPA says it was out of order for the NFL to file with the 5th Circuit before waiting for Mazzant to make a decision.
“One-upping its demonstrated regard for due process, the NFL declined to wait for Judge Mazzant, who has been presiding over a complex, bifurcating, three-week jury trial, to rule on its stay motion. The motion fails to comply with Federal Rule 8 — ‘As an appellate court, we can not take evidence or hear matters initially. We are dependent entirely on the record made in trial court.’ The injunction poses no threat to the NFL. There is nothing to justify departing from Rule 8. The NFL’s failure to wait justifies [sic] ruling against a stay.”