U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

NFL Star's Penalty Reinstated: Six Games, No First Down

Ezekiel Elliott, a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, runs really fast.

Last year, he led the National Football League in rushing yards. But Elliott can't run faster than the law.

The player has been suspended for six games for violating league rules against domestic violence. A trial judge blocked the suspension, but the Fifth Circuit vacated the order.

Bad Block

U.S. Judge Amos Mazzant had granted a motion for preliminary injunction against the league last month, halting the suspension before it took effect. The season had not started yet, and Elliott has been playing in each game since then.

But the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said the judge lacked jurisdiction because the matter was bound by arbitration rules. The NFL and the National Football League Players Association had not exhausted their administrative remedies at the time.

"The procedures provided for in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA were not exhausted," the 10-page majority opinion states.

As a result, the suspension will keep Elliott off the field for a critical part of the season. The players union will have to move fast to get him back in the game.

Irreparable Harm?

Attorney Daneil Wallach told USA Today the players have a better argument now to lift the suspension because the team will suffer. They may seek a rehearing, but time is working against them.

"The 'fundamental fairness' issue and the irreparable haven't diminished with time," he said. "In fact, there's significantly more harm now since the Cowboys are nearing the middle of the season."

In the domestic violence case, Elliott's former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson claimed he abused her last year. He has not been charged with a crime in the matter.

The NFL conducted its own investigation, however, and determined Elliott violated its rules.

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