Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott may not have to sit out most of the 2017 professional football season after all, although it seems like the federal courts can’t get their play calls straight on the subject.
Mere days after a federal appeals court in Texas allowed Elliott’s six-game suspension to go forward, another federal court in New York granted the National Football League Players Association a second temporary restraining order to block the NFL from implementing the suspension that was issued by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell following an investigation of allegations of domestic abuse against Elliott. NFL Mgmt. Council v. NFL Players Ass'n, Case No.:17-cv-06761-KPF, 2017 BL 372341 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 17, 2017)
The final decision on whether the star player will serve a disciplinary suspension has been postponed until the restraining order expires Oct. 30, or the judge originally assigned to the case returns from vacation and rehears the case. It is conceivable that Elliott will not have to serve a suspension this season.
Judge Paul Crotty in New York granted a TRO because Elliott will miss more than a third of the NFL’s regular season if he is improperly suspended, drawing the opposite conclusion to that of the Fifth Circuit.
Crotty found that serious questions remain about the fundamental fairness of the arbitration proceedings, in which Elliott was denied a chance to confront or question an accusing witness on the alleged domestic violence that was the basis of his suspension.
Bad Call by Fifth Circuit?
Running in the opposite direction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a previous TRO issued in Elliott’s favor by a federal court in Dallas, reasoning that the injunction in that case in favor of the players’ union was issued prematurely, given that a labor arbitrator had not yet issued a final decision in Elliott’s case, and the NFL wasn’t refusing to engage in the arbitration process at the time when the union filed its first complaint. NFL Players Ass'n v. NFL, No. 17-40936, 2017 BL 366441 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2017)
Headed for Overtime?
Although it appears that Elliott may be allowed to batter opposing defenses for the rest of the season, the unusual developments in his labor dispute perhaps make it unwise for sports fans to start taking his presence on the gridiron for granted. Stay tuned for further developments!
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