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The chances of Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension being overturned on appeal are likely slim, but it’s possible that Elliott may employ a strategy that would hold off his punishment until the 2018 season.
On Tuesday, Elliott will have his appeal hearing for the six-game suspension he received from the league stemming from charges of domestic violence.
According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, Elliott’s legal team and the NFLPA believe that if the suspension is upheld, they may be able to challenge the charge in federal court due to a procedural violation on the part of the NFL.
The strategy would be somewhat similar to the NFLPA’s handling of Deflategate, when Brady’s suspension was temporarily thrown out over a lack of due process for the quarterback. While the suspension was reinstated on appeal, the measure did stave off the games Brady missed for an entire season.
Elliott’s camp reportedly feels it has a similar opportunity, should he lose his appeal.
The NFLPA and Elliott’s defense team have been looking for a potential procedural violation to mount a challenge in federal court. Sources have told Yahoo Sports that they believe they have it, via some of the same procedural collective bargaining arguments that opened the door for the union and quarterback Tom Brady to sue the NFL in deflate-gate. The sources declined to make the exact violations clear, but told Yahoo Sports that it involves all three of the aforementioned developments: naming Henderson as a partial arbitrator; failing to require Thompson to appear for cross-examination; and refusing to produce investigative material gathered when the NFL interviewed Thompson on multiple occasions.
Elliott’s camp believes they could potentially use decisions made by the NFL to take the case to federal court. First, Roger Goodell named former league executive Harold Henderson as the independent arbiter for the appeal, a decision that the player’s union believed took the process further from neutrality.
Additionally, Henderson, in his capacity as arbiter, has refused a request from Elliott’s camp to make his accuser available for cross-examination, an important aspect to the case in their eyes, especially after the Columbus City Attorney’s office decided not to pursue charges in the case due to “conflicting and inconsistent information.”
The Cowboys open the season in Dallas on September 10 against the New York Giants.