After an investigation that lasted more than a year, the NFL on Aug. 11 suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott of the 2017 regular season “for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.” The violation stems from a domestic-violence incident that allegedly took place last summer. The NFL Players Association filed an appeal on Elliott’s behalf on Aug. 15, and on Tuesday, Elliott was in New York for his appeals hearing. The hearing is expected to run through Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
So with the season less than two weeks away, and Elliott an integral part of the Cowboys’ offense, what’s next? Here are four things to know about Elliott’s hearing.
Goodell picked the arbitrator
Elliott will head to the NFL’s Manhattan offices where the appeal will be heard by commissioner Roger Goodell’s designated arbitrator, Harold Henderson. Henderson has heard previous appeals, including the appeal of former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2014. in Peterson’s case, though that suspension was later .
In 2015, Henderson heard former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy’s appeal in a domestic-violence case and . In the Hardy case, the NFLPA originally objected to Henderson’s appointment because the former NFL labor executive wasn’t deemed a neutral or independent arbitrator. It’s why some observers were surprised by Henderson’s decision to reduce Hardy’s punishment.
“Henderson was chastised by [a] federal court judge after upholding Peterson’s suspension [in 2014],” Andrew Brandt, the director of the Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova Law School and former NFL executive tweeted shortly after the Hardy ruling in July 2015. “Significant reduction here.”
So while SI.com legal analyst Michael McCann describes Henderson as “deeply experienced in NFL labor matters and unquestionably qualified to hear Elliott’s appeal,” he also concedes that Henderson is “hardly the kind of ‘neutral’ arbitrator the NFLPA would prefer hear the appeal.”
And perhaps that explains why Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who maintained for months before the ruling that Elliott would not be suspended because there was no evidence that the running back had committed domestic violence,.
It could have been worse, however; Goodell could have appointed himself to lead the hearing.
What happens after the hearing?
We wait for Henderson to rule. In the meantime, here are two dates to watch: Sept. 2, which is when Elliott’s suspension is set to begin, and Sept. 10, which is the Cowboys’ regular-season opener against the division rival Giants.
It seems unlikely that Henderson will issue a ruling by Sept. 2, just four days after the hearing, in part because its findings will be heavily scrutinized in a court…