The NFL filed an emergency motion in federal appeals court Friday, hoping to get a swift ruling on its request to overrule a judge who blocked a six-game suspension for star Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in a domestic violence case in Ohio.
The league filed its request with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, even though a federal judge in Texas hasn’t ruled on a request to put the injunction on hold while an appeal is pursued. The emergency motion asks the court to rule on the request to suspend U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant’s injunction as early as Tuesday, the start of the practice week before the Cowboys’ third game of the season against Arizona.
If the ruling isn’t made by Tuesday, the NFL is asking for a decision by Sept. 26, the start of practice before Dallas’ Week 4 home game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Elliott had already been cleared to play in a 19-3 win over the New York Giants in the season opener before Mazzant granted his request for an injunction. Last year’s NFL rushing leader will play Sunday at Denver under Mazzant’s ruling.
The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell in August after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations last summer in Ohio with his girlfriend at the time. The NFL players’ union sued on Elliott’s behalf.
In its emergency motion, the NFL reiterated previous arguments that Elliott’s attorneys sued prematurely because arbitrator Harold Henderson had yet to rule on the running back’s appeal of the suspension. The appeal was denied the same day as arguments over the request for an injunction from Mazzant in Sherman, Texas, about 65 miles north of Dallas.
The NFL ultimately wants to get the case moved from Texas to the Southern District of New York. That was the venue for the league’s successful appeal after a federal judge had overturned New England quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in the "Deflategate" case.
The NFL contends Mazzant’s ruling was an unnecessary interference in the league’s labour deal with the players.
"Put differently, the six-game suspension approved by the arbitrator will ultimately stand, and no one’s interests are served by delaying that discipline based on a misguided order by a district court that lacked jurisdiction," the NFL wrote in its motion.
Mazzant’s ruling took aim at Henderson and the NFL , saying decisions not to allow Goodell and Tiffany Thompson, the ex-girlfriend, to testify at the appeal were among several factors unfair to Elliott. The NFL has maintained that it followed all procedures for discipline in the collective bargaining agreement.
Three years ago, the NFL stiffened its domestic violence policy with the six-game standard and more investigative power. The changes came after the league was sharply criticized for its handling of a domestic incident involving former Baltimore running back Ray Rice.
According to the letter Elliott received informing him of the suspension last month, the NFL believed he used "physical force" three times in a span of five days in a Columbus, Ohio, apartment last July resulting in injuries to Thompson’s face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees. Prosecutors in Columbus decided about a year ago not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, but the NFL kept the investigation open. The league said its conclusions were based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence.
Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards as a rookie to help the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC at 13-3. He had 104 yards in the opener against the Giants.