NFL play­ers in dif­fi­cult dilemma

Dal­las run­ning back’s lawyers pon­der move

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - A.J. Perez @bya­jperez USA TO­DAY Sports

En­tire league in­volved in protest flap af­ter Trump in­serted him­self

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.

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