Attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott requested an emergency hearing in federal court in New York on Tuesday on the belief that the running back’s six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations would be in place for at least a week without further legal intervention.
Elliott’s legal team and NFL lawyers were set for an afternoon hearing in the Southern District of New York, about two hours before what Elliott’s attorneys believed was a deadline for active rosters to be set for the Cowboys’ game Sunday at San Francisco. U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty was set to hear arguments because the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Fialla, was out of town.
In their request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, Elliott’s attorneys said NFL procedure required rosters to be set by 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no such deadline from the league’s perspective.
NFL Players Association attorneys, working on Elliott’s behalf, also said the league had already informed Elliott that he couldn’t practice or play this week. The Cowboys returned to work Tuesday after their bye week and will have their first full practice Wednesday.
Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time. Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation and announced the six-game punishment. That has led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell and that the hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.
The NFL placed Elliott on the suspended list Friday, a day after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court’s injunction that had allowed him to play this season.
The case is shifting to New York because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered the dismissal of Elliott’s lawsuit in Texas. The 5th Circuit on Tuesday denied an NFLPA request to recall the mandate telling the Texas court to vacate the injunction and dismiss the case. Depending on the outcome in New York, Elliott’s attorneys could still seek a rehearing with a larger panel of the appeals court, which they have indicated they would do.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott’s attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because the arbitrator had yet to decide on the running back’s appeal through the NFL. Elliott’s attorneys have argued in subsequent filings that the dissenting judge in New Orleans agreed with the Texas judge’s findings that the NFL appeal was unfair to Elliott.
In successfully arguing the case in Texas, Elliott’s attorneys contended that he would suffer irreparable harm, one of the requirements for an injunction, because the suspension couldn’t be undone even if he only served one game without a proper hearing of the entire case in federal court.
NFL attorneys countered that they followed the rules of the labor agreement in suspending Elliott, and that labor laws backed Goodell’s power to suspend him. After Henderson rejected Elliott’s appeal, the league filed a lawsuit with the Southern District of New York, asking it to confirm Henderson’s ruling.
The Southern District was the venue for the “Deflategate” case that ended with New England quarterback Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension at the start of last season, more than a year after it was imposed. Brady won a preliminary ruling from a federal judge, just as Elliott did, before losing on appeal.