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NFL files appeal of Elliott's preliminary injunction

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The legal battle continues between the NFL and NFLPA in the Ezekiel Elliott suspension case.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday that the NFL filed its appeal of Elliott's preliminary injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, per court documents.

The move was expected after U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant III granted the NFL Players Association's preliminary injunction request on behalf of Elliott on Friday, putting the six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back on hold.

The appeal of the injunction seeks to reinstate Elliott's suspension. It's simply the next phase of the legal process. In his decision on Friday, Mazzant agreed with the union that Elliott didn't receive a fair appeal hearing from arbitrator Harold Henderson, who was appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

As NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport note, the league wants Elliott to serve the suspension this year. NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart also says Elliott won't be placed on the Commissioner's Exempt list.

"The question before the court is merely whether Elliott received a fundamentally fair hearing before the arbitrator," Mazzant wrote. "The answer is he did not. The court finds, based upon the injunction standard, that Elliott was denied a fundamentally fair hearing by Henderson's refusal to allow [former girlfriend Tiffany] Thompson and Goodell to testify at the arbitration hearing. Their absence ... effectively deprived Elliott of any chance to have a fundamentally fair hearing."

The NFL disagreed with Mazzant's assessment, setting the stage for the appeal.

"We strongly believe that the investigation and evidence supported the commissioner's decision and that the process was meticulous and fair throughout," the league spokesman said in a statement. "We will review the decision in greater detail and discuss next steps with counsel, both in the district court and federal court of appeals."

As NFL Network's Judy Battista pointed out last week, the issue before the court is not about Elliott's guilt or innocence on the underlying question of whether he abused his former girlfriend. Rather it's a question of whether Elliott received a fair arbitration hearing when he appealed the suspension.

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, noted on NFL Network on Friday that the legal maneuvering is a continuation of the battle between the NFL and NFLPA -- similar to the one that played out in the Tom Brady case.

"This is part of the ongoing fight between the players association and the league over the power of the commissioner," Feldman said. "We have seen the NFL go to great lengths in court to affirm and strengthen and maintain they believe in what they collectively bargained for. And we've seen the players association fight and say that the commissioner has overreached and they want to protect the rights of the players ... [The NFL] doesn't want precedent out there that says a court can interfere with the commissioner's decision or with an arbitrator's decision. So I think this fight will continue even if it's irrelevant to Elliott being on the field or not."

Monday's appeal is just the next bullet point on the timeline of Elliott's suspension case, which will continue to grow in the coming months.

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