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Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott Loses Latest Attempt To Block Suspension

Nov 9, 2017
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott has lost his latest attempt to block a six-game suspension related to domestic violence allegations. Today in New York City, a three-member panel of federal judges ruled against Elliott and for the National Football League, which suspended him back in August.

Joining me now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. And, Tom, what more can you tell us about this decision?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, Robert, it didn't take long for this panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Today's hearing reportedly lasted a little over a half hour. Then the judges quickly made their decision. And it means the six-game suspension is back on. And it's been off and on numerous times since it was handed down in August. It means he won't play this Sunday in the Cowboys game against the Atlanta Falcons. And if the suspension holds this time it means he'll be out for six weeks, a critical period from a football perspective as the Cowboys try to make the playoffs. Elliott is the NFL's second leading rusher. Cowboys won't be as good without him.

SIEGEL: Every decision, though, in this case has been met with appeal and injunctions, and temporary restraining orders have been consistently overturned. What are Elliott's options actually now?

GOLDMAN: Well, the options aren't great. Sports law expert Gabe Feldman from Tulane University notes that Elliott can file an appeal before the full 2nd Circuit Court and could even petition the U.S. Supreme Court. But Feldman calls those the longest of long shots. He says Elliott really is out of plausible options. However, you never say never in this back-and-forth case. And in its ruling today, the judges said Elliott's next appeal will be heard on an expedited basis. We're hearing that will be December 1, meaning there may be another ruling, perhaps one that stops the suspension before the six-game penalty runs its course.

SIEGEL: Tom, describe the allegations, the case that's at the root of all this.

GOLDMAN: A former girlfriend of Elliott's alleged he committed violence against her last year on several occasions. Now, law enforcement officials who investigated did not bring charges. There was never a conviction. But the NFL has the power to conduct its own investigation, which it did, and that investigation found there was enough evidence to warrant this six-game suspension.

SIEGEL: Now, Ezekiel Elliott maintains that he's not an abuser, that he didn't assault his former girlfriend. Does today's ruling mean that the court believes the NFL and not him?

GOLDMAN: The court is not saying it believes the NFL's finding that Elliott is guilty of domestic violence. Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann tweeted today that this ruling only means the panel recognizes the NFL's personal conduct policy, gives commissioner Roger Goodell nearly unlimited authority. And, Robert, this is one of the big issues at play here. Goodell is unique in the amount of power he wields in cases of player conduct. According to Gabe Feldman, the NFL commissioner's powers in these matters were negotiated with the Players' Union. And it sets Goodell apart from commissioners in other major pro sports leagues, who rely more on independent arbitrators to handle these kinds of conduct cases.

SIEGEL: Today's ruling is unlikely to help relations between Goodell the commissioner and the owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones. He's reportedly threatening to sue the NFL if Goodell's contract is extended.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right. And Jerry Jones is a very powerful owner. He's angry with Goodell over a number of issues. Certainly the Elliott case is a big one for him. Jones reportedly is one of several owners not happy with Goodell's performance. But whether he can sue the NFL - that's a long shot. We'll see what comes of this. NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart was quoted as saying he expects Goodell's contract extension to be wrapped up soon despite what Jerry Jones is saying.

SIEGEL: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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