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Ezekiel Elliott receives injunction from federal court delaying 6-game suspension

Elliott will be on the field for the Cowboys while this plays out.

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Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal court in Texas ruled Friday to extend an injunction that will delay Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension. Elliott is free and clear to take the field for the Cowboys until Judge Amos Mazzant issues a final ruling on Elliott’s pending lawsuit against the NFL. Elliott will likely play out the 2017 season.

The NFLPA filed for a restraining order or an injunction on the same day that it filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL. The suit challenges the way the NFL handled the investigation into domestic violence allegations levied against Elliott in July 2016. After an investigation that lasted over a year, Roger Goodell issued Elliott a six-game suspension. Elliott appealed the decision, but arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the suspension Tuesday.

What does this ruling mean? Simply put, it means that Elliott can play until the court rules on the lawsuit and determines who wins. The NFL will likely try to file another appeal, but the injunction will keep Elliott on the field until the case is complete.

What’s the status of the court case? It’s ongoing. The NFL filed a motion to dismiss on Tuesday, and asked that the lawsuit be moved from Texas to New York. The NFLPA filed a response shortly thereafter and amended it after Elliott’s suspension was upheld.

In its new filing Wednesday, the NFLPA said Henderson’s decision “does not change anything about the evidence of fundamental unfairness, irreparable harm, or balance of hardships,” according to documents obtained by the Dallas Morning News.

Long story short: This contentious fight between the NFL and NFLPA could take a while.

Why did the court grant the restraining order? The NFLPA and Elliott’s attorneys filed the federal lawsuit before his appeal was decided. The suit alleges “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 NFL’s director of investigations, Kia Roberts, testified during Elliott’s appeal that she did not recommend a suspension for Elliott. Roberts interviewed Elliott’s accuser several times and did not find her to be credible. Roberts’ recommendation was not passed on to any of the independent advisors who were appointed to review the evidence, and it was withheld from Roger Goodell, who made the decision to suspend Elliott.

That was a key issue for Mazzant, who said that withholding the information resulted in an unfair process:

The NFL’s actions demonstrate that from the very beginning of the decision-making process, a cloud of fundamental unfairness followed Elliott. Unfortunately, this cloud followed Elliott into the arbitration proceedings. The arbitration record shows that the NFL, at the very least, turned a blind eye to Roberts’s dissenting opinion. This entire set of circumstances was put in front of Henderson.

In his decision to uphold the suspension, Henderson said Goodell handled the appeal appropriately.

“Here the process for imposing discipline outlined in the Policy has been followed closely, step by step,” Henderson said in a statement, via Adam Schefter.

However, Judge Mazzant did not agree.

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 [the accuser] and Goodell to testify at the arbitration hearing.

The NFLPA released a strongly worded statement Friday after the announcement of the injunction:

The current collective bargaining agreement will expire in 2021.

What happens next? The legal process will continue while the NFL and NFLPA keep battling. Right now, the NFL is still weighing its options on what to do next:

And Elliott will remain on the field until the court has a decision.