Elliott Suspension Creates Questions Around Arbitration

NFL legal battle could create new avenues for pro athletes to avoid arbitration

Although the NFL season has had its ups and downs for Denver Broncos fans, league controversy might be more exciting for legally minded fans to talk about. Last week, the legal saga surrounding Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot spilled into an unlikely area — labor law.

Elliot made news off the field last year with a domestic violence investigation that culminated in a six-game suspension from the NFL. The investigation, suspension and resulting legal challenges have become a battle between the league and the NFL Players Association, and despite having an arbitration agreement as part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement, much of the dispute has played out in courts in multiple venues around the country.

Elliott faced accusations of domestic violence last July, and despite not being arrested or charged, the league gave Elliott its standard six-game suspension. Elliott contested that the investigation and suspension was unfair to him and took that argument to a court in Texas, which agreed. That decision was appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the NFL and upheld the suspension.

Elliott, via the players association, then took the case to the Southern District of New York, where he found a more sympathetic judge. Elliott was granted a temporary restraining order, which cleared his path back to the playing field. The order demanded the NFL show cause, delaying the suspension.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the October 23, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.