A new wrinkle unfolded in this year’s big ticket NFL legal battle — the NFL vs. Ezekiel Elliott — as a Texas judge denied the NFL’s emergency request for a stay of injunction that allows Elliott to play while his 6-game suspension is litigated in court. To clarify, this matter has transcended Roger Goodell’s NFL kangaroo court into the actual courtroom, much like Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” saga did last year.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell unilaterally suspended Elliott, the NFL’s reigning rushing leader, for six games on August 11th, 2017 as a result of a series of alleged domestic altercations that took place between Elliott and an ex-girlfriend in 2016 in Ohio. With the actual police declining to press charges in the matter, Elliott & Co. have a legitimate grievance against Goodell and the NFL.
The NFL Players Association appealed the NFL’s suspension just four days after it was announced, but didn’t receive any clarity on the matter until a few days before the Cowboys’ first regular season game, when Judge Amos Mazzat ruled that Elliott could play while the courts determined the legitimacy of the suspension.
Based on that decision, the NFL’s lawyers requested that Mazzat reverse his own ruling (and not let Elliott play) or they would appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans; a request that no self-respecting judge would grant. Basically, the NFL and Elliott (via the NFLPA, with the backing of the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones) are engaged in bizarre form of litigious courtship, not unlike something you’d see on Planet Earth.
Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, and owner Robert Kraft went through this exact process with the NFL last year. Based on the sage advice of extremely high paid lawyers, Team Brady opted not to escalate the legal battle all the way up the U.S. court system, figuring the team could survive Brady’s four-game suspension to start the season and still fare alright in the post-season.
And guess what — Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl last year; the four games he sat out at the beginning of the season a mere footnote to another legendary season.
However, without a Belichick-like system in place, and facing six games instead of four, plus the circumstantial nature of the evidence the NFL used to justify Elliott’s suspension, the opportunity cost of not appealing Zeke’s suspension is too great.
With so much at stake, the legal showdown between the NFL and Zeke Elliott shows no signs of abating. Both parties have the money to litigate this to the death and neither side wants to lose face. Furthermore, Jerry Jones is one of the more influential owners in the NFL, and after what happened to Tom Brady, and by extension, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, last year, someone has to step up and check Roger Goodell.