NFL Files Notice Of Appeal In Elliott Case, Setting Stage For Another Prolonged Battle
The NFL today filed notice that it "will appeal last week's Ezekiel Elliott ruling" that blocked the six-game suspension handed down last month, according to A.J. Perez of USA TODAY. The three-page filing in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas "sets the stage for another drawn-out legal battle, not unlike" the one that engulfed Patriots QB Tom Brady due to Deflategate. The suspension, which was blocked on Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant, "likely will remain on hold as the case is decided in the courts." The NFL "appears unlikely to put Elliott on the commissioner's exempt list, which amounts to paid leave." The league also could ask Mazzant "to stay his decision as the appeal is decided, which legal observers see as a long shot." There is a "good chance that Elliott could remain eligible for the rest of the season" if the case reaches the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, as the "average time from a notice of appeal to a decision by the Fifth Circuit last year was 8.8 months" (USATODAY.com, 9/11).
ELLIOTT SPEAKS OUT...: In Dallas, Kate Hairopoulos reports Elliott last night following the team's win over the Giants spoke publicly for the first time since the NFL announced his suspension, and he "answered questions about his no-holds battle with the NFL, but also tried to steer the conversation back to the team, saying the situation has already been a distraction." Mazzant on Friday blocked the league's suspension and "strongly criticized the NFL's handling of the case." Elliott said of the process, "It's definitely been a tough last 14 months. At times it's gotten so hard you start to lose faith." He said the hardest part of the situation has been his "name getting dragged through the mud." Elliott: "It's been 14 months like I said. Just sort of being associated with that. That's tough." Elliott said he was relieved that he will "finally get a fair trial, I'll finally get a chance to prove my innocence" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/11). In Ft. Worth, Drew Davison noted Elliott "didn’t know if he’d be eligible to play the entire season, but this process is expected to last months." Elliott: "I’ve kind of just stopped worrying about it because it’s really out of my hands at this point" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/11).
...SO DOES JONES: Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones also addressed the case last night, saying that it is "inaccurate to compare" Elliott to Tom Brady's four-game suspension last year. Jones said the issue with Deflategate was whether Brady "misrepresented information" to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He claimed that Elliott "has been open and honest about his situation" related to the July '16 domestic violence allegation. Jones: "[Deflategate] was about whether or not the player had misrepresented to the commissioner. We’ve got rules that say if you don’t tell the truth to the commissioner then you can get sanctioned. Those are rules. That’s not the case here." He added, "Zeke gave them everything plus some that he needed to have here. These are different issues. This has really to do with what our league’s responsibility is given the privilege that we have as a league, then what is our responsibility to really do it in a very good and accurate or acceptable way. ... You have to be fair." The STAR-TELEGRAM's Davison reports in granting Elliott an injunction, Mazzant "ruled that the arbitration process was fundamentally unfair to Elliott." He particularly "ripped arbitrator Harold Henderson for not making" Goodell or Elliott's accuser Tiffany Thompson "testify at the appeals hearing, and withholding investigative notes" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel writes Jones is "arguably the most powerful owner in the NFL, and if he wants to begin pushing for a new investigative process then it will carry weight." It is "clear Jones is in line with the NFLPA, federal judges and virtually any bystander paying attention that the league has significant problems with how it goes about investigating and disciplining players" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/11).
BACK TO THE COURTS: In Dallas, David Moore noted what began as an "investigation into charges of physical abuse is now a rebuke of NFL procedure." A spotlight that only a few days ago "illuminated Elliott's behavior now highlights the league's imperious approach." While Mazzant's decision paves the way for Elliott to "avoid serving any of the suspension this season, there are many legal skirmishes to follow" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/9). In Philadelphia, Bob Brookover wrote as "hideous as the accusations against Elliott are, it is undeniable that the NFL’s history of handling major disciplinary issues has been deplorable, and the union has used this opportunity for another plea to change a system" that gives Goodell "far too much power" (PHILLY.com, 9/8). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote Goodell may "ultimately win this war, as he did" with Brady, but it will "come at a severe cost, as it did with Brady." The Elliott ruling just "reinforces the public perception of Goodell and his scattershot justice system." Elliott is "nobody’s martyr, and this ruling does not exonerate him." Why does Goodell "insist on being in charge of player discipline when it has been such a public-relations nightmare for him?" And "why does he keep botching it?" Everybody would be "better off if Goodell conceded some of his disciplinary power." People "stopped trusting him with it a long time ago" (SI.com, 9/8).
NO TRUST IN THE PROCESS: ESPN.com's Ian O'Connor writes under the header, "The Process Needs Fixing, But Zeke Elliott's Suspension Should Stand." After the "sickening episodes" involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Josh Brown, the league "had to make this stand." The NFL now has to "fight this case to the figurative death in the courts and continue making this necessary point: If you hit a woman, your NFL career will end up getting seriously hurt" (ESPN.com, 9/8). SI.com's Michael McCann wrote under the header, "What The Ezekiel Elliott Decision Means For Him, The NFL and Other Players" (SI.com, 9/9). In Indianapolis, Gregg Doyel wrote it is "hard to understand what the NFL commissioner is doing, and why he thinks he should get away with it." It is "getting easier to join the chorus of dissent." Doyel: "Give it up, Roger. You're the problem" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/10). YAHOO's Wetzel wrote the issue here is the NFL's "system of duplicity, which Mazzant lampooned in his 22-page decision." It reads like the judge "sat over his keyboard, mouth agape that some of this stuff could even occur in America." The NFL "somehow managed to deny justice to both the accused and the accuser" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/8).
THE LOWEST OF LOWS? CBS Sports Network's Amy Trask talked about whether the NFL-NFLPA relationship was at “an all-time low,” and she said, “Every time we have this conversation, I say it sure seems to be, and then it goes lower." Trask: "They did unite to make one statement this week. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but they did something that sort of gave me a glimmer of hope, but it is bad.” She added, “When you hire a litigator to run a business, you’re going to get a litigation mentality. ... Not everything has to be a fight” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 9/10). THE MMQB's Peter King writes the NFL has to "start building more bridges, starting with the fractured relationship with players and the union." The Elliott story is "going to be drawn out, and ugly, and though America wants to see the league be tough on violence against women, there has to be a way to make it a more cooperative venture so that every fight with a player isn’t nuclear" (SI.com, 9/11).