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Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence has been reinstated. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district court’s preliminary injunction Thursday and instructed the lower court to dismiss the case.
The NFL said the suspension would be effective immediately. The Cowboys have a bye this week before facing the San Francisco 49ers a week from Sunday.
The 2-1 decision comes after U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant granted a temporary injunction in the case, which he ruled was “fundamentally unfair.” Because Elliott filed prior to arbitrator Harold Henderson’s ruling on his suspension, judges Edward C. Prado and Jennifer Walker Elrod ruled that the running back had “had not yet exhausted the contracted-for remedies.”
Frank Salzano, a lawyer for Elliott, wrote in a statement that his team is “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.”
The likely next step could be to pursue the case in New York, where the NFL already filed a case on the matter. Lawyers from the NFL Players Association representing Elliott could ask the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to issue an injunction. The NFLPA said in part in a statement: “The failures of due process by the NFL articulated in the district court’s decision were not addressed.”
“We could very well have the same results that we had in Texas’ district court, and Elliott could be again granted a temporary restraining order,” sports law attorney Daniel Wallach, a partner at Becker & Poliakoff, told USA TODAY Sports. “The ‘fundamental fairness’ issue and the irreparable harm haven’t diminished with time. In fact, there’s significantly more harm now since the Cowboys are nearing the middle of the season.”
If Elliott serves his suspension, he’d be eligible to return in Week 13.
While Elliott was not arrested or charged by prosecutors, the NFL cited statements from Elliott’s former girlfriend and photos that showed injuries Elliott allegedly inflicted in July 2016 for the basis for his suspension. The six-game ban is the baseline punishment for domestic violence under the league’s personal-conduct policy.