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Ezekiel Elliott files lawsuit alleging NFL ‘conspiracy’ resulted in 6-game suspension

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The Cowboys running back made some damning allegations against the NFL’s investigative process.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t heard the result of his appeal of a six-game suspension, but the Dallas Cowboys running back didn’t wait to file a lawsuit against the NFL with some heavy accusations.

According to an NFLPA lawsuit filed on Elliott’s behalf, the six-game suspension handed down by the NFL was the result of “the most fundamentally unfair arbitral processes conceivable,” via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

On Thursday night, the Star-Telegram reported that NFL lead investigator Kia Roberts recommended no suspension for the running back.

The investigation of Elliott spanned more than a year and looked closely at accusations made against Elliott before he ever played a game for the Cowboys. Among those shocked by the eventual punishment was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was reportedly told by a top NFL executive that no suspension was coming.

What does the lawsuit aim to accomplish? The short answer is that Elliott is looking to avoid a suspension altogether. But his lawsuit makes accusations that could have a bigger impact than that.

Among the passages in the lawsuit:

“Elliott and the Union were subjected to an arbitration process in which, among other things, there was a League-orchestrated conspiracy by senior NFL executives, including NFL Senior Vice President and Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel, to hide critical information, which would completely exonerate Elliott,” the petition reads.

“[T]he NFLPA and Elliott do not seek in this Petition for the Court to make its own determinations about Elliott’s or [the accuser’s] credibility, or any other matter of fact-finding properly left to the arbitrator,” the lawsuit reads, via Pro Football Talk.

“Rather, the controlling and paramount legal question presented here is whether an arbitration concerning the existence of ‘credible evidence’ for employee discipline based on ‘he-said/she-said’ claims of domestic violence can be fundamentally fair when senior NFL Executives have conspired to obscure (including from the Commissioner and his advisors) their own Director of Investigations’ conclusion that there was no credible evidence upon which to impose discipline, and the arbitrator has refused to require the NFL to make available for testimony and cross-examination: (i) the accuser whose credibility is at issue (or the investigative notes of her six interviews), and (ii) the Commissioner who was deprived of critical facts in making his disciplinary determination”

Why file the lawsuit now? The timing of the suit stems from “powerful new evidence” that reportedly came to light during Elliott’s appeal. That evidence may be the recent report that Roberts’ recommendation of no punishment was ignored and left out of the NFL’s official investigative report.

During the appeal, it was reportedly revealed that Friel barred Roberts from attending the meeting when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was advised to hand down a six-game suspension to Elliott.

Will the lawsuit affect the 2017 season? The decision made by Harold Henderson in the appeal will decide if Elliott’s punishment is upheld, reduced, or wiped out. But a petition filed by the NFLPA on Friday will seek for a temporary hold that allows Elliott to play regardless of Henderson’s decision until the lawsuit plays out.

During the lengthy Deflategate battle between the NFL and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a four-game suspension of the quarterback was pushed back to 2016, despite originally being handed out in 2015. That was because the lawsuit allowed for Brady to play while the suspension was challenged in court.

Elliott‘s temporary order hasn’t been heard by a court yet, but that will be its goal in the immediate and it means there’s a good chance the Cowboys have the running back available for a Week 1 game against the New York Giants.