Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for the first six games of the NFL season in early August. The NFL ruled he had violated its personal conduct policy in a domestic violence incident more than a year prior.
The NFL’s arbitrator, Harold Henderson, upheld that ruling and denied Elliott’s appeal on Tuesday night.
So who will be in the Cowboys’ starting lineup on Sunday night against the New York Giants to kick off the season? Elliott. The suspended but not-quite-yet suspended Elliott. How convenient for a marquee game. It’s the NFL stealing a page from boxing’s handbook.
As the league and Elliott’s lawyers prepare for further battle in court, Elliott is still suspended for six games. Just not the first six games. The NFL’s lawyer said before Tuesday’s hearing that a ruling would come too late in the day for it to be enforced by Sunday.
And how much does baloney sell for at your deli counter? Perhaps Elliott can be suspended every other week, or for two weeks at a time.
Couple points here. Or a couple of slices of that pink, rubbery meat we all love so well…
First, the Cowboys have been expecting this suspension all along. They were not unprepared for the eventuality of playing the Giants without last year’s NFL leading rusher. Elliott has been involved in a bunch of dicey doings, though that doesn’t mean he’s guilty of this particular infraction (or any of them, until a court says so). The league said it did not consider other incidents in suspending Elliott in this particular case.
Second, well, there’s the arbitrator and the matter of what arbitrators are and do. According to dictionary.com (and this is a direct quote): The legal form of popular arbiter; in modern usage, an arbiter makes decisions of his own accord and is accountable to no one but himself.
Ready to gag on the baloney? Henderson’s resume includes close to 100 arbitration hearings since his appointment in 2008, which came after he worked for the NFL for 16 years as its executive vice president for labor relations and chairman of the management council executive committee.
Henderson has upheld suspensions (Adrian Peterson, who technically was on the Commissioner’s Exempt List) and shortened others (Greg Hardy). The point is not that he is fair or unfair; the point is that he is an NFL man through and through, though his appointment clearly falls under the commissioner’s purview. So it’s OK, even if it kinda sorta seems just a bit underhanded by the NFL and carries a faint stink with it.
Back to court we go. The judge who heard the arguments on Tuesday in federal court said he would rule on Elliott’s request for a temporary restraining order by Friday.
You thought football was played on a field. It’s not. It’s played in court.
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman