On Tuesday, an NFL arbitrator upheld Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s full six-game suspension, but Elliott will reportedly play in the team’s season opener against the New York Giants on Sunday because, according to Pro Football Talk, the ruling came after a 4 p.m. Tuesday league deadline.
With Elliott’s appeal denied, he now has to wait on a federal court to decide if the temporary restraining order filed by the NFLPA will block the suspension—a decision that will reportedly come this week. Elliott also filed a lawsuit in federal court to vacate the arbitrator’s decision. The NFL filed a motion to dismiss that suit Monday night.
On August 11, the league suspended Elliott for six games after an NFL investigation into accusations of domestic violence against him found “substantial and persuasive evidence” that Elliott used physical force against Tiffany Thompson. Elliott appealed that suspension but was denied on Tuesday by league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson. However, initial reports indicated that despite Henderson’s ruling, Elliott will be eligible to play on Sunday.
With the appeal looming, Elliott and the NFLPA preemptively turned to federal court last week to argue that the league’s handling of the case was flawed. Last Thursday, Elliott filed a suit demanding that the court vacate what he anticipated would be a denial to his appeal, and the NFLPA filed a temporary restraining order on Elliott’s behalf on Friday “calling for the courts to block any suspension upheld by NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson,” according to Adam Schefter.
In the NFLPA filing to block Henderson’s decision to uphold the suspension, the union blasted the league’s handling of the case: “In what may mark one of the most fundamentally unfair arbitral processes conceivable, Elliott and the Union were subjected to an arbitration process in which, among other things, there was a League-orchestrated conspiracy by senior NFL executives … which would completely exonerate Elliott.”
Before the ruling, the NFLPA also took particular exception to the impartiality of Henderson, who “spent 16 years as the NFL’s Executive Vice President for Labor Relations and Chairman of Respondent National Football League Management Council’s Executive Committee,” according to the filing, and has frequently served as the neutral arbitrator in high-profile NFL investigations.
Elliott’s attorneys criticized Henderson’s decision in a statement Tuesday night:
Statement from Ezekiel Elliott's attorneys: pic.twitter.com/6AhGr3QOzC— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 6, 2017
The NFL first said it would begin investigating Elliott’s case in July 2016.
Update: ESPN’s Adam Schefter posted a comment from Henderson to his Facebook page Tuesday night in which Henderson said:
I find it unnecessary to reexamine all the evidence presented in this record because my careful and diligent review of everything the Commissioner reviewed and relied on draws me to the conclusion that the record contains sufficient credible evidence to support whatever determinations he made.