Ezekiel Elliot's 6-game suspension upheld by arbitrator

The six-game suspension against Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been upheld.

The decision came down Tuesday afternoon from the NFL's arbitrator. However, Elliott will be on the field for Dallas' season opener on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium against the New York Giants.

The running back received the news in federal court in Sherman. He and the Players’ Union were in court to challenge the punishment and are trying to get a temporary restraining order to put it on hold while the case goes to the courts. The NFL is requesting that the federal court throw his request out.

Tuesday’s court hearing lasted more than two hours. Elliott's attorney stood and said that the arbitrator had made a decision. The judge for the eastern district of Texas heard their arguments and will make his decision this week.

The judge is tasked with determining whether the process to determine his suspension has been fair.

Elliott's attorney, who also represented Tom Brady during his ‘deflategate’ suspension, told the judge, "There needs to be credible evidence [of domestic violence] before you wreck this player's career," saying Elliott was never criminally charged for the alleged abuse.

Elliott's attorney said, "These [pro football] careers are short...perhaps this is the Cowboys' year." But his greatest argument is that both the NFL and the arbitrator have not required Elliott's accuser, nor NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to testify.

The judge even said he read the investigative report produced by the NFL, and there seem to be procedural errors in the accuser's interviews and concerns over what information was submitted to Goodell for his decision on whether to suspend Elliott.

The judge said, "I'm not saying it's a conspiracy, but when you look at the series of events, you have to question whether it's fair."

Representation for the NFL says the arbitrator has all of the facts and is capable of making a fair determination, saying, "If you get to manipulate the suspension, that is harm to the NFL." 

The judge even said he read the cases for Tom Brady, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, and the facts in Elliott's case are different, saying there seem to have been errors in the process. He asked the NFL its policy on requiring accusers to testify. The NFL says it cannot control these accusers.

"The evidence that Mr. Elliott and his team presented on appeal clearly demonstrated that Mr. Elliott was the victim of conspiracy orchestrated by the National Football League and its officers to keep exonerating evidence from the decision makers," Elliott's attorney said in a statement. "Mr. Elliott is looking forward to having his day in federal court where the playing field will be level and the NFL will have to answer for its unfair and unjust practices."

Elliott will practice and play against the Giants this week. That is not affected by whatever the judge decides.

Attorneys on both sides have until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to file anything additional. The judge says he'll have his decision by Friday evening.

Elliott was suspended when the NFL concluded after a yearlong investigation that Elliott had several physical altercations with his girlfriend at the time last summer in Ohio. Prosecutors declined to pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence. Elliott has denied wrongdoing.

According to the letter Elliott received informing him of the suspension three weeks ago, the NFL believed he used "physical force" three times in a span of five days in a Columbus, Ohio, apartment last July resulting in injuries to Thompson's face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees.

Prosecutors in Columbus decided about a year ago not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, but the NFL kept the investigation open. The league said its conclusions were based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence.

"The contention of Elliot side is that the entire process has fundamentally violated the basic rights of the American legal system," said attorney Chris Hamilton.

Attorney Chris Hamilton, who is not involved in this case, has reviewed the emergency motion for a temporary restraining order filed by the NFL Players Association on Elliott's behalf. If the judge grants the request, Hamilton says it would prevent the NFL from imposing any suspension against Elliott for domestic violence allegations.

"I think the claims made by Elliott's lawyer are that the arbitration was a stacked deck. That Elliott was deprived of the right to bring in all of the evidence available to confront the person making the accusations," Hamilton said.

According to court documents, "The arbitrator also denied Elliott and the NFLPA the right to question Commissioner Roger Goodell, who imposed the discipline."

The NFL's counter-filing argued the lawsuit was prematurely filed before arbitration concluded.

But with the arbitrator's ruling now public it's possible this case could be tied up in court, long enough for Elliott to play the entire season while the suspension is pending.

Elliott's camp says if the court doesn't intervene, then the harm is irreparable and no amount of money can fix the problem.

 

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