Two of the NFL’s old­est quar­ter­backs do bat­tle in a key matchup when the Jets play host to the Pa­tri­ots on Sun­day

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE SPORTS - SCHUYLER DIXON

U.S. fed­eral court lifts in­junc­tion made by Cow­boys run­ning back in an at­tempt to block ban over do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions

A fed­eral ap­peals court cleared the way on Thurs­day for the NFL to im­pose a six-game sus­pen­sion on Dal­las Cow­boys star Ezekiel El­liott over do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions, sid­ing with the league in the lat­est high-pro­file fight over its abil­ity to pun­ish play­ers for off-field be­hav­iour.

In a 2-1 de­ci­sion, the 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals panel in New Or­leans granted the league’s emer­gency re­quest to set aside an in­junc­tion and or­dered a district court in Texas to dis­miss El­liott’s case.

The NFL an­nounced that the sus­pen­sion was ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, although fur­ther ap­peals were pos­si­ble and the Cow­boys are not play­ing this week­end.

“We are cur­rently ex­plor­ing all of our le­gal op­tions and will make a de­ci­sion as to what is the best course of ac­tion in the next few days,” El­liott’s at­tor­ney Frank Salzano said.

The Cow­boys don’t play again un­til next Sun­day, Oct. 22, at San Fran­cisco. If El­liott’s le­gal team can’t put the sus­pen­sion on hold again, he won’t be el­i­gi­ble to play un­til Nov. 30 at home against Wash­ing­ton, a Thurs­day night game the week af­ter Thanks­giv­ing. El­liott played the first five games as Dal­las went 2-3 in a dis­ap­point­ing start.

A fed­eral judge in Texas is­sued the in­junc­tion block­ing the sus­pen­sion last month, agree­ing with NFL play­ers’ union at­tor­neys who ar­gued that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the al­le­ga­tions in Ohio and a sub­se­quent ap­peal were un­fair to El­liott, one of the league’s stand­out run­ning backs.

The NFL coun­tered that it fol­lowed pro­ce­dures un­der the league’s labour deal and that the union im­prop­erly filed a law­suit be­fore the ap­peals process was com­plete.

The most likely des­ti­na­tion for fur­ther le­gal chal­lenges from play­ers’ union at­tor­neys repre- sent­ing El­liott is with the South­ern District of New York. The NFL filed in that fed­eral court af­ter El­liott’s ap­peal through the league was de­nied by ar­bi­tra­tor Harold Hen­der­son last month.

Last year’s NFL rush­ing leader as a rookie, El­liott was sus­pended in Au­gust by Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell af­ter the league con­cluded fol­low­ing a year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that he had sev­eral phys­i­cal con­fronta­tions in the sum­mer of 2016 with Tif­fany Thomp­son, his girl­friend at the time.

Pros­e­cu­tors in Colum­bus de­cided not to pur­sue the case in the city where El­liott starred for Ohio State, cit­ing con­flict­ing ev­i­dence.

El­liott’s le­gal team filed the law­suit on his be­half in the East­ern District of Texas be­fore Hen­der­son had re­jected the ap­peal. The 5th Cir­cuit agreed with the NFL’s claim that the fil­ing was pre­ma­ture.

“The pro­ce­dures pro­vided for in the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree- ment between the NFL and NFLPA were not ex­hausted,” Judges Jen­nifer El­rod and Ed­ward Prado wrote for the ma­jor­ity. “The par­ties con­tracted to have an ar­bi­tra­tor make a fi­nal de­ci­sion. That de­ci­sion had not yet been is­sued.”

In dis­sent, Judge James Graves dis­agreed that the suit was filed pre­ma­turely. Graves noted the union’s ar­gu­ment that the league had vi­o­lated the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment be­cause key in­for­ma­tion had been with­held from Good­ell and El­liott’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­fore the sus­pen­sion was or­dered and the ar­bi­tra­tor’s de­ci­sion was based on in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion. The suit was prop­erly filed in the district court be­cause the ar­bi­tra­tion process called for in the labour deal was not prop­erly fol­lowed, Graves ar­gued.

The NFL had al­ready agreed to let El­liott play in the opener be­fore his re­quest for an in­junc­tion was granted by U.S. District Judge Amos Maz­zant in Sher­man, north of Dal­las. Hen­der­son ruled against El­liott the same day Maz­zant heard ar­gu­ments over the in­junc­tion.

Gabe Feld­man, di­rec­tor of the sports law pro­gram at Tu­lane Univer­sity Law School, noted that the opin­ion dealt only with ju­ris­dic­tional is­sues and not the ques­tion of whether the NFL’s ap­peals process was un­fair to El­liott.

“This is cer­tainly a sig­nif­i­cant set­back,” Feld­man said. “But they still have a chance be­cause this de­ci­sion was not made on the mer­its of the case. He has yet to have a fed­eral court rule against him on the mer­its. Un­til that hap­pens, he still has a chance.”

El­liott, who set a Dal­las rookie fran­chise record with 1,631 yards rush­ing last sea­son, is fourth in the NFL with 393 yards this year. He had a sea­son-high 116 yards in a 35-31 loss to Green Bay on Sun­day.

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