The lengthy legal process between Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL Players Association fighting on his behalf and the NFL itself appears to have finally reached its conclusion, or is at least on the one-yard line. U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk ruled to uphold the league's six-game suspension imposed for violating the personal conduct policy. ESPN's Adam Schefter was among those to first report on the decision.
This latest and apparently final step -- barring Elliott's team choosing to file yet another appeal in the 24-window afforded them by Judge Polk -- means that Elliott will be suspended effective immediately, making him eligible to return to the team for Week 15's game against the Oakland Raiders on Dec.17.
What went from a domestic violence investigation has moved into a back-and-forth concerning legal minutia and the reach of the NFL's investigative and disciplinary powers independent of the judicial system. Monday's ruling was the result of a temporary restraining order that expired (it was originally issued by U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in mid-October and halted the previous enforcement of the six-game suspension). That suspension had originally been put off by way of a federal hearing in September and then again reinstated on Oct.12 by an appellate court ruling in New Orleans.
If all that sounds complicated, it is. And while at the heart of this current courtroom back-and-forth is a series of power plays between the league and the union, what has come with it is a loss of what brought the league and Elliott to this point in the first place: the domestic violence allegations made against Elliott, which stem from numerous police complaints made by ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson in 2016.
While it is important to note that Elliott was never charged with a crime, let alone convicted, the NFL conducted its own investigation and decided that several of Thompson's allegations held up to scrutiny.
It's understandable why this situation has had to delve into the murky waters of courtrooms in various districts. And it's also fair to question the league's punitive and investigative authority versus those of the legal authorities and prosecutors. Of course, some Cowboys fans may just be worrying about what will come of Dallas' running game over the next six weeks, given that Elliott has accounted for 690 of the team's 1,054 rushing yards, six of their nine rushing touchdowns. A three-man committee that has just 174 yards between them will likely replace Elliott, with Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris likely to see a lion's share of the work.
But the whole reason for Elliott being suspended for six games to begin with shouldn't be lost among the many rulings, motions, injunctions and handwringing by all sides. Don't let the bureaucracy be the distraction to this stark reality: handling DV issues is still a big problem in the NFL, and it doesn't look like the situation will get better anytime soon.