It’s never been a matter of if but when Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott would be serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence issues. But there is still a strategy to be revealed after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction that blocked the penalty.
As of now, that clears the way for the NFL to implement the suspension, but the former Ohio State star’s legal team still has some cards to play if that’s what Elliott wants.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans granted the NFL’s emergency request to set aside an injunction that blocked the penalty and ordered the district court in Texas that ruled in favor of Elliott to dismiss the case. The three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favor of the league, so it was not unanimous.
The injunction was originally granted by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant with the reasoning that the NFL violated the labor deal by withholding key information from the appeals process and that the NFL was unfair to Elliott. The league countered, as it always does, that its actions followed procedures agreed to by both sides under the league’s labor deal and that the union wrongly filed the lawsuit before the appeal had even been completed.
Any further legal challenge would likely shift to the Southern District of New York, the court in which the NFL filed after Elliott’s NFL appeal was denied by arbitrator Harold Henderson.
While seeking a dismissal, the NFL wrote in a filing that the players’ union case filed on behalf of Elliott had resulted in “hopelessly doomed proceedings,“ something that precedent says is true even if this meanders all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
What’s really at issue in these types of cases is whether or not the NFL has the right to implement these kinds of punishments. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, which was jointly negotiated, the answer to that question from a legal standpoint is a tough one to argue.
In the past, many lower courts have ruled against the NFL and postponed suspensions, hoping the league would look at the way it handles its business and treats those caught up in disciplinary issues more fairly.
The end game, however, always ends the same way because overturning a jointly-negotiated CBA would have far-reaching implications that extend far past the NFL and turn employment law on its ear, an untenable path forward.
Considering the Cowboys are off to a disappointing start at 2-3 and don’t have the look of a Super Bowl contender, it’s entirely possible that Elliott and his camp throw in the towel at this point, serve the six games and start fresh.
Or they could continue an unwinnable fight as Tom Brady did with his Defaltegate suspension and try to fend off the penalty for as long as possible. Even if successful in the next legal venue, however, that’s only delaying the inevitable which would likely mean Elliott sitting out the first six games of the 2018 season when Dallas could be in a better position to compete.
Dallas has a bye this weekend and if Elliott taps out, he would likely be on the shelf for games against San Francisco, Washington, Kansas City, Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. His return would then be set up for the rematch against the Redskins during Week 13.
Understanding that landscape, it’s time to turn the page and accept the inevitable.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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