Judge Clears NFL Suspension Hurdle for Cowboys Star Elliott

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott at NFL football training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on July 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A New York federal judge threw up a block for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott on Tuesday, putting the six-game suspension he faces over domestic-abuse allegations on hold.

Handing down a temporary restraining order after court hours Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty distinguished the running back’s lawsuit from that of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose four-game benching the Second Circuit reinstated last year.

“The court finds that defendant is entitled to a TRO,” the 4-page ruling for Elliott says. “First, defendant has established that, without a TRO, Mr. Elliot would suffer irreparable harm because he stands to miss more than one-third of the NFL’s regular season. Improper suspensions can undoubtedly result in irreparable harm.”

Although the players’ union took a page out of the “Deflategate” playbook in their protest of the disciplinary proceedings NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell launched against Elliott, the accusations encircling the running back are far more serious than limp footballs.

The scandal erupted in August 2016 when Elliott’s girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson of Columbus, Ohio, posted pictures of her bruised body on Instagram. Her caption intimated that Elliott caused them.

“Thrown into walls,” she wrote. “Being choked to where I have to gasp for breath. Bruised everywhere, mentally and physically abused. It’s not okay. So I want each and every one of you girls to step away now from domestic violence.”

Elliott has denied the allegations, and police opted not to charge him, but the NFL concluded its investigation last month with Goodell finding “substantial and persuasive evidence” that Elliott physically attacked Thompson multiple times during the week of July 16, 2016.

“Mr. Elliott’s behavior during that event was inappropriate and disturbing, reflecting a lack of respect for women,” the league’s Sept. 5 letter states. “When viewed together with the July incidents it suggests a pattern of poor judgment and behavior for which effective intervention is necessary for your personal and professional welfare.”

Though the NFL has not released its report on its Elliott investigation, a leaked copy obtained by Yahoo Sports says Thompson admitted to NFL investigators that she considered blackmailing the Elliott with a sex tape.

In his ruling Tuesday, Crotty questioned the justice of the NFL’s proceedings.

“Defendant raised significant issues implicating the fundamental fairness of the arbitration proceeding that Mr. Elliot was subject to,” Crotty wrote. “Defendant was denied the opportunity to confront the accusing witness and it had no opportunity to examine this witness on the alleged domestic violence. This is significant because there were substantial questions concerning the credibility of the accusing witness.”

The case Crotty is considering in New York is one of two involving Elliott.

Days before the NFL sought to confirm its arbitrator’s findings here, the NFL Players’ Association filed a federal complaint in the Eastern District of Texas on Elliott’s behalf.

In the latter case, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant lifted Elliott’s suspension just in time for the Cowboys’ season opener against the New York Giants.

Mazzant found Elliott’s arbitration hearing was unfair, but the Fifth Circuit lifted that injunction last week, clearing the way for the NFL to reinstate the discipline.

The New Orleans-based appeals court focused on the timing of the proceedings, noting that the Aug. 31 lawsuit by players’ union came a week before the Sept. 5 release of the arbitrator’s decision, depriving the court of subject-matter jurisdiction.

Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing yards last year in his rookie season, has played in every game this season.

Crotty’s restraining order in New York clears the way for him to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

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