For the second time in three years, the NFL finds itself in a messy legal battle as the regular season approaches.
The NFL Players’ Association filed a request for temporary injunction Thursday night on behalf of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, according to Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Elliott currently is awaiting a ruling on his appeal of a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, but his legal team believes it has a real case against the NFL in getting the suspension blocked and allowing Elliott to be on the field for Week 1 of the regular season.
In its suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Plano, Texas, the NFLPA said Elliott was subject to one of “the most fundamentally unfair arbitral processes conceivable” and accused NFL senior executives of “a League-orchestrated conspiracy” to “hide critical information” which would “completely exonerate” Elliott.
The crux of the NFLPA’s case centers around Kia Wright Roberts, the NFL’s lead investigator in the case. Roberts testified Thursday that she recommended no suspension for Elliott after reviewing his case and speaking to his former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson.
According to a Telegram source, though, Roberts’ recommendation wasn’t even included in the NFL’s investigative report. When determining punishment for Elliott, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held a meeting with several NFL senior executives that didn’t include Roberts, the only NFL employee to interview Thompson during the investigation, per the Telegram.
In fact, the Telegram reported that Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations who recommended to Goodell that Elliott be suspended for six games, actually barred Roberts from that meeting.
If Roberts was in fact excluded from the Elliott punishment process, it’s a pretty bad look for the NFL, which has been accused in the past of abusing its power in disciplining players. Of course, the union also helped give the NFL that power in the latest collective bargaining agreement, which essentially allows Goodell and the league to have complete control over the punishment process.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images