A federal judge in Texas on Friday granted Ezekiel Elliott’s request for a temporary restraining order, thereby allowing the Cowboys running back to remain on the field beyond Sunday as he tries to have his six-game suspension for domestic violence overturned.
District court judge Amos Mazzant ruled that, “Elliott did not receive a fundamentally fair hearing, necessitating the Court grant the request for preliminary injunction.”
Mazzant concluded his ruling with a harsh rebuke of the NFL: “Fundamental unfairness infected this case from the beginning, eventually killing any possibility justice would be served.”
Elliott had already been allowed to play in Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Giants because appeals officer Harold Henderson, who was appointed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to hear Elliott’s appeal of his initial suspension, hadn’t issued his decision to uphold the suspension until Tuesday. Elliott had previously taken his case to federal court in Sherman, Texas to have his suspension temporarily lifted until he could have his case ruled on by a district court judge.
It is a major victory — at least for now — for Elliott and the NFL Players Association, which represented the running back during his appeal and also filed a federal lawsuit on Elliott’s behalf.
The NFL can appeal Mazzant’s ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but getting a final ruling could take months and would likely allow Elliott to play the entire season. It is a similar scenario to Tom Brady’s appeal of a four-game suspension for being involved in an alleged scheme to purposely use deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts in January, 2015. The Patriots quarterback played the entire 2015 season, but the NFL ultimately prevailed on appeal, after which Brady served his four-game ban at the start of the 2016 season.
Elliott’s former girlfriend accused him of domestic violence in July 2016. He was neither arrested nor charged in connection with the accusations, but Goodell felt the NFL’s investigation offered enough evidence to warrant a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.
During the appeals process, it was revealed that Kia Roberts, the NFL’s lead investigator in the case, raised concern about Elliott accuser Tiffany Thompson’s credibility — and that Roberts would not have recommended disciplinary action against Elliott.
In a statement issued Friday, the NFLPA repeated its longstanding criticism of Goodell’s sweeping powers in disciplinary matters.
“Commissioner discipline will continue to be a distraction from our game for one reason: because NFL owners have refused to collectively bargain a fair and transparent process that exists in other sports. This ‘imposed’ system remains problematic for players and the game, but as the honest and honorable testimony of a few NFL employees recently revealed, it also demonstrates the continued lack of integrity within their own League office.”