Ezekiel Elliott, the focus of the Redskins defense, remains in the legal system's crosshairs as well.
Ezekiel Elliott, the focus of the Redskins defense, remains in the legal system's crosshairs as well.
Keith Allison

Ezekiel Elliott Will Begin Serving Suspension No Earlier Than Oct. 8

Ezekiel Elliott will keep playing for at least two more weeks. On Friday afternoon, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals elected not to make an immediate decision on the league's request to stay a lower court decision that's allowed Elliott to play as the case has made its way through the federal court system.

Instead, the 5th Circuit scheduled a hearing on the stay for Monday, Oct. 2, the day after the Cowboys play the fourth game of their 2017 season against the Los Angeles Rams.

On Sept. 8, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Elliott, ruling that the NFL's appeals process through which Elliott has gone following July 2016 domestic violence allegations made by his ex-girlfriend appears to have been "fundamentally unfair" to Elliott. Elliott was not arrested or charged with a crime, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a six-game suspension based on what he believed to be credible evidence — primarily photos taken by Elliott's ex-girlfriend of injuries allegedly caused by Elliott.

Mazzant's decision is based on NFL arbiter Harold Henderson's decision to excuse Elliott's accuser, Tiffany Thompson, and Goodell from testifying at Elliott's appeal hearing. It allows Elliott to continue playing as long as it is in effect.

Additionally, the league's co-lead investigator, Kia Roberts, testified that she did not believe Elliott should have been suspended, based on interviews with Thompson. Roberts' recommendation was not included in the league's investigation report, nor was Roberts allowed to meet with Goodell before issuing the suspension.

The league has argued that Henderson's actions and Elliott's suspension are permitted by the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, which gives broad, almost unlimited authority to Goodell in the league's disciplinary process.

Earlier this week, Dallas lawyer Chad Ruback, an appellate specialist, told the Dallas Observer that the NFL would have a difficult time getting its stay because it's required to show that Elliott would not be irreparably harmed were he to serve his suspension only to see it later overturned. The league has argued that financial compensation would make up for the games missed in that case. The league must also show that it will be irreparably harmed by Elliott not serving the suspension. On that front, the league has argued that Elliott's continuing to play undermines the league's disciplinary authority.

In its oral argument order, however, the 5th Circuit appears concerned with a different issue.

Lawyers for Elliott and the league have been asked to provide briefs on whether Mazzant's court in Sherman has appropriate jurisdiction over the league's decision. Elliott filed his lawsuit in Mazzant's court before Henderson's final appeal decision, leading the league to argue that the Southern District of New York, in which the league filed a competing lawsuit after Henderson's decision, is the appropriate venue for the issue to be settled.

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