With the ruling against Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL has set a dangerous precedent which could have major consequences in the future.
Late Monday night, Judge Katherine Failla denied Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and his legal team’s request for a preliminary injunction. If granted, the decision would have most likely kept Elliott eligible and on the field for the remainder of the 2017 season.
As this situation sits right now, and barring any last minute unforeseen legal maneuvering, Elliott will begin his six-game suspension immediately and be eligible to return on December 17th against the Oakland Raiders.
But how did we get to this end result of Elliott being suspended for six games? To get that answer we need to look no further than article 46 of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement which is titled “Article 46 Commissioner Discipline.” Simply put, article 46 brings reality to the saying of “judge, jury, and executioner” when explaining how the commissioner can handle league discipline issues.
Elliott’s domestic violence case with the league is twofold; there is the legal side of the case where law enforcement was involved. And there is the league side of the case where there is no law enforcement involvement needed.
On the legal side of this case, where law enforcement was in fact involved, they have come to the conclusion there was not enough evidence to charge Elliott with any wrongdoing due to the standard which exists in our legal system of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now, this is where article 46 comes into the picture. The standard that exists under article 46 and in the NFL CBA is “conduct detrimental to the league.” There is no factual burden of proof as the commissioner can hand down fines or suspensions at his own will as long as the action can be viewed as giving the league a bad image. But, there is more.
Not only can the commissioner hand out fines and suspensions at his own will, himself or his designee will be the arbitrator for any appeals hearings; essentially keeping all the power in the league’s favor.
Sound a bit unfair?
I am not saying Elliott is completely innocent as he has put himself in this position in the first place. The NFL Players’ Association is not totally innocent either as they agreed to the CBA during negotiations back in 2011. However, for the league and the commissioner to suspend and accuse Elliott of domestic violence when our country’s own law enforcement system said he would not be charged is a very dangerous precedent.
With two high profile cases now falling under the article 46 umbrella in the last couple years (Tom Brady’s case last year and Elliott’s case this season), you can rest assured there will be a square off against the league and the NFLPA in 2020 when the current CBA is set to expire. In the meantime, the NFL has set a dangerous precedent with this latest ruling which could have major consequences for both the players and the league for the next three years and beyond.
This will be a hot button issue that the NFLPA will likely want to remove from the agreement altogether. While I cannot imagine the league or the commissioner will want to give up this all-inclusive power.