Another shoe has dropped in the Ezekiel Elliott saga, and it could make for a lengthy legal fight with the NFL after a federal judge in Texas blocked the league’s six-game suspension of the Dallas Cowboys star running back Friday evening.
U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant agreed with the NFL Players Assn. that Elliott didn’t receive a “fundamentally fair” hearing in his appeal. Mazzant granted the NFLPA’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the suspension.
Elliott had already been cleared to play in Sunday night’s opener against the New York Giants because of the timing of arbiter Harold Henderson’s ruling in the appeal.
After Mazzant’s ruling, the NFLPA issued a statement reiterating a complaint about Commissioner Roger Goodell’s power in imposing punishment.
“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,” the union said in a written release. “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.”
Elliott was suspended by the league after allegations of multiple physical altercations last summer with Tiffany Thompson, a former girlfriend.
The union had sued the league in federal court — even before the appellate hearing had concluded — saying that hearing was unfair because Elliott did not get an opportunity to confront his accuser.
After Henderson upheld the suspension, the NFL filed a lawsuit in federal court asking that the case be heard in New York, and not Texas, where Elliott rocketed to stardom as a rookie last season by leading the league in rushing.
The 22-year-old Elliott denied Thompson’s allegations in sworn testimony during an appeal hearing last week. He also attended the hearing for a restraining order earlier this week in Sherman, about 65 miles north of Dallas.
“We are very pleased that Mr. Elliott will finally be given the opportunity to have an impartial decision-maker carefully examine the NFL’s misconduct,” Elliott’s attorneys said in joint statement. “This is just the beginning of the unveiling of the NFL’s mishandling as it relates to Mr. Elliott’s suspension.”
Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards to help the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC at 13-3. He was a full practice participant throughout training camp but played in just one preseason game, same as a year ago when Elliott missed significant time at camp because of a hamstring injury.
Associated Press contributed to this article.
7:50 p.m.: This article has been updated to correct the joint statement from Ezekiel Elliott’s attorney.
5 p.m.: This article has been updated with more details and a joint statement from Ezekiel Elliott’s attorney.
This article was originally published at 4:05 p.m.