Cowboys RB Elliott denied injunction by judge
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott lost an attempt to block his six-game suspension Monday when U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla denied a request for a preliminary injunction after hearing arguments from the NFL and NFLPA.
Judge Failla, in her ruling, stayed the decision for 24 hours to afford parties the opportunity to consider appellate options.
With the ruling in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Elliott’s six-game suspension would again be in effect and he would be ineligible to play until the Cowboys’ game against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 17.
Elliott and the NFLPA have the option of appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, and could seek a stay that would allow him to continue to play while the appeal process plays out.
In her ruling, Judge Failla said, “the NFLPA has failed to demonstrate a substantial question warranting the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief or a balance of hardships that decidedly weighs in its favor.”
She added that while there may be a difference of opinion on the arbitrator’s ruling on his suspension, “the arbitrator gave Mr. Elliott ample opportunity, in terms of both proceedings and evidence, to challenge the Commissioner’s decision.”
The Cowboys said they would not have any comment Monday night after the ruling. Coach Jason Garrett had said earlier Monday the team had taken Elliott’s situation into account in regards to the roster.
“We have some veteran running backs,” Garrett said during his weekly news conference. “We have some depth at that position. 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? We try to do that with our offensive line, receivers, running backs, all throughout our defense. 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,” Garrett added. “Regardless, we’re going to go forward and try to play our best football.”
Elliott received the six-game suspension on Aug. 11 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy relating to domestic violence allegations by a former girlfriend. He was never charged with any crime by the Columbus, Ohio, authorities who investigated the allegations.
Elliott was in the courtroom on Monday. The second-year running back had been granted a temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty on Oct. 17, but that order is expiring.
The NFLPA had been granted a preliminary injunction by a federal judge in Texas on Sept. 8, but a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled with the NFL on Oct. 12 and lifted the injunction.
The NFLPA then went to the Southern District Court in New York, where the case now resides.
Elliott has said he is fighting for his name after the NFL handed down a six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy with what the league believes is persuasive evidence that he committed domestic violence against former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson in July 2016.
The court fight has been more about the process involved that led commissioner Roger Goodell to levy a suspension.
Unlike three federal judges before her, Failla rejected most of those claims and backed the NFL’s contention that it followed the collective bargaining agreement in suspending Elliott, and that those procedures were supported by federal labor law.
“Having negotiated with the NFLPA over the terms of a particular CBA, the NFL has an interest in obtaining the benefit of its bargain — an interest that might well be eroded if courts such as this one were permitted to micromanage the disciplinary decisions of the commissioner,” Failla wrote.
The judge also said some of the reasons for Elliott’s claim that he would suffer irreparable harm with a suspension were speculative.
“And any individual honors Elliott might attain absent suspension depend on countless variables — such as the Cowboys’ overall offensive performance, his opponents’ defensive performance, and Elliott’s health — that together render this alleged harm far too speculative to justify injunctive relief,” Failla wrote.
Failla based some of her rulings on the NFL’s successful appeal in the same jurisdiction in the Deflategate case that ended with New England quarterback Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension. Brady delayed the punishment more than a year by winning a district court ruling.
NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler argued before Failla that the hearing was “fundamentally unfair” because it downplayed the conclusion by an internal investigator that Thompson wasn’t credible in her account.
Failla disagreed, writing that testimony from the NFL appeal hearing made it clear that Goodell was aware of the investigator’s views.
She also backed the NFL’s interest in timely penalties under its personal conduct policy, which three years ago was changed to stiffen penalties in domestic cases.
Elliott is third in the NFL in rushing with 690 yards in seven games. He’s tied for the league lead with six rushing touchdowns.
Information from ESPN’s Todd Archer and The Associated Press was used in this report.