Decision on Cowboys’ Elliott Suspension Officially Thrown into Fifth Circuit’s Hands

The NFL’s New York suit seeking to enforce the six-game suspension on Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott was halted on October 11, 2017 until the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals makes a decision. Manhattan federal court’s District Judge Katherine Polk Failla said she would not issue a formal stay of the injunction — the injunction currently preventing Elliott’s suspension from taking immediate effect — but that she would halt the New York litigation. Elliott has played, so far, in all five Cowboys’ games this season.

The NFL suspended Elliott back in August following his ex-girlfriend’s allegations of domestic violence. The case has since then spiraled into two separate lawsuits. Elliott and the NFL Players Association (NLFPA) had originally filed suit in Texas federal court asking to vacate the then-forthcoming arbitration decision, anticipating the arbitrator would deny Elliott’s appeal of the suspension — which the arbitrator did do in early September. Once the decision came out, the NFL filed its own lawsuit in New York federal court seeking to enforce the arbitrator’s ruling and uphold the suspension. Texas federal Judge Amos Mazzant issued a preliminary injunction, which froze the suspension, allowing Elliott to play. Then in, mid-September, Judge Mazzant denied the NFL’s motion to stay the injunction. The NFL is currently fighting that decision in the Fifth Circuit, but now must wait. The NFL’s attorney argued to Judge Failla that, of the two lawsuits, only the New York suit was properly filed. Judge Failla pointed out that Judge Mazzant disagreed.

There are a few possible outcomes: The Fifth Circuit may decide that Judge Mazzant lacked authority to hear the case because Elliott and the NFLPA prematurely filed suit before the arbitrator had actually ruled. In that case, the suit would be dismissed and Elliott’s suspension would take effect immediately, although Elliott would likely file a temporary restraining order. The Fifth Circuit also may vacate the injunction and say the district court overreached when reviewing the arbitration decision. Or, the court could deny the NFL’s request to stay the injunction. In that case, the injunction would remain in place allowing Elliott to play the rest of the season, but the legal battle would continue during next year’s season.

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