On Tuesday, Harold Henderson, the arbitrator hearing Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, upheld the NFL’s six-game suspension of the star Cowboys running back. Based on the timing of the announcement, however, Elliott would be allowed to play against the Giants in Week 1 but would then miss games against the Broncos, Cardinals, Rams, Packers, 49ers, and Redskins before a Week 9 return against the Chiefs.
But this saga is likely far from over.
“Basically what (Henderson) says is, ‘Listen, it’s not my job to decide whether Goodell was right or not to suspend him or whether it was right or not to suspend him for six games. My only job is to decide whether his decision was arbitrary and capricious, which means did he have enough evidence to make the decision?’” CBS Sports Radio legal analyst Amy Dash said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “And he felt there was enough evidence on the record to support him making a decision to suspend, and he also felt it was within his power to do it and he followed all of the procedures laid out by Article 46.”
The NFLPA, though, will not go quietly into the night.
“The NFLPA is fighting again,” Dash said. “They’re vowing to fight all the way until there’s no suspension for Ezekiel Elliott. So they filed the lawsuit, and now we’re waiting for the judge to make a decision. If they lose, that’s it. He’s got to serve the six-game suspension because he lost his appeal.”
As Dash explained, courts do not like to overturn arbitrations.
“If the league is going to bargain for this and the union agrees to give the power to Roger Goodell, then (courts) like to respect that,” Dash said. “They like to keep arbitrations over in the settlement field and away from the court system, so they don’t like to disturb them. But they will overturn them if they feel that they’re unfair, if they feel that there’s a procedural problem with them, and I think that Ezekiel Elliott has a really strong case in that respect.”
There are many reasons for this.
“First of all, there’s this allegation that the league hid a conclusion by one of its lead investigators (Kia Roberts) who felt that there shouldn’t be a suspension,” Dash said. “Harold Henderson wouldn’t allow Ezekiel Elliott’s camp to get access to Kia’s investigative notes for some of her interviews with Tiffany Thompson, the accuser, and they wouldn’t allow Ezekiel Elliott to cross-examine Tiffany Thompson. She wasn’t a part of his appeal hearing, and he also couldn’t question Roger Goodell in the appeal hearing. So for those reasons, the NFLPA is saying it was an unfair arbitration procedurally, and I think they have a really good case far stronger than Tom Brady’s case.”
Overall, Dash has mixed feelings about the suspension.
“You walk away feeling like the girl was the victim of domestic abuse, but you’re not sure whether Ezekiel Elliott did it,” she said. “At the end of the day, there’s a he-said, she-said because there’s no direct evidence linking him to her injuries. She provides pictures of injuries. She has text messages where she’s talking about things that he allegedly did to her. But there’s so many people that just refused to speak to the NFL. There’s a lot of holes in the investigation. . . . (Elliott is) going to play (Week 1), and then if he loses in court, then the suspension is going to take effect and he’s going to have to sit for six games. But if he wins, then they’re going to do the whole long, Brady-style lawsuit and we don’t know when he will serve the suspension, or if he even will.”