FRISCO, Texas – Following a three-day deliberation, federal judge Amos Mazzant has granted Ezekiel Elliott a preliminary injunction, preventing the NFL from enforcing its six-game suspension of the Cowboys' running back.
Mazzant set a deadline for a decision by Friday evening, and he followed through with that, stating "based upon the preliminary injunction standard, the Court finds, that Elliott did not receive a fundamentally fair hearing, necessitating the Court grant the request for the preliminary injunction."
Elliott had already been cleared to play in Sunday's season opener, but this decision will make him available – perhaps even the entire 2017 season – while the issue proceeds in court. Elliott's legal team and the NFL appeared in court in Sherman, Texas, to argue the merits of the injunction.
It has been almost one month exactly since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Elliott for the first six games of this season, following a 13-month investigation into allegations of domestic violence. Elliott immediately appealed that decision, with he and his legal team arguing a "league-orchestrated conspiracy … to hide critical information" during the league's fact-finding process.
NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson heard the appeal, ultimately choosing to uphold the decision at six games. The granting of the temporary restraining order will stave off that discipline while the matter proceeds.
Mazzant was sure to clarify that in his statement, pointing out that the allegations of domestic abuse were not the issue at hand – rather the NFL's handling of the investigation.
From Mazzant's ruling: "The question of what happened between Elliott and Thompson in July 2016 is not before the Court. Nor is the Court making any credibility findings. As previously stated herein, the Court has a limited role in this case. The question before the Court is merely whether Elliott received a fundamentally fair hearing before the arbitrator. The answer is he did not. The Court finds, based upon the injunction standard, that Elliott was denied a fundamentally fair hearing by Henderson's refusal to allow Thompson and Goodell to testify at the arbitration hearing."
The NFL Players Association also put out a strongly-worded statement regarding the ruling.
It read: "Commissioner discipline will continue to be a distraction from our game for one reason: because NFL owners have refused to collectively bargain a fair and transparent process that exists in other sports. This 'imposed' system remains problematic for players and the game, but as the honest and honorable testimony of a few NFL employees recently revealed, it also demonstrates the continued lack of integrity within their own League office."