This morning, the NFL filed a notice of its intent to appeal a Texas court's injunction that allows Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to perform in the NFL while his case seeking to vacate his 6-game suspension plays out in court. Meanwhile, Elliott will continue to play for the Cowboys, much to the delight of the franchise and those who drafted Elliott in their fantasy leagues.
Why Elliott's chance to play out the 2017 NFL season has dramatically improved.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the jurisdiction in which the NFL's appeal will be heard, is typically very slow in processing appeals. As such, unless the NFL is able to persuade the court to rule on an emergency basis, it may take some time for the Fifth Circuit to rule.
The average length of time for the Circuit to rule on an appeal is almost 9 months. If it takes that long for the Fifth Circuit to rule on the NFL's appeal, then Elliott should be able to play out the entirety of the 2017 NFL regular season as well as any playoff games should the Cowboys make the postseason.
Why an attempt for an emergency stay by the NFL will likely fail.
Elliott's improvement in position could be weakened if the NFL is able to obtain an emergency stay from the Fifth Circuit. A stay would allow the NFL to immediately reinstate Elliott's 6-game suspension while the lower court determines whether the arbitrator's decision to uphold NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's 6-game suspension of Elliott should not be altered or removed, with a focus on whether there was fundamental unfairness in relation to the proceeding.
A stay may be difficult for the NFL in this case. One of the requirements of proof is that the NFL will be irreparably harmed if the stay is not entered. What exactly will be the harm to the NFL? The NFL has at least attempted to explain the irreparable harm to the Court, but a key question is what will be the harm to the NFL should it be forced to implement the same suspension on Elliott, a young, talented athlete, at a later date?
How the NFL is trying to persuade the Court that there is irreparable harm.
The NFL, in its motion for an emergency stay, has claimed that the temporary lift of Elliott's suspension interferes with an agreed to, bargained for grievance process with streamlined appeal procedures and that the lower court's order "frustrates the NFL's ability to efficiently and effectively administer the [collective bargaining agreement], and impacts the competitive landscape of the NFL every week a properly suspended player suits up."
The league says there is no irreparable harm likely to before Elliott, as he will be able to recoup any lost money if the suspension is overturned. Soon enough we will know whether the Court buy's the NFL's argument.