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Ezekiel Elliott was denied an injunction by a federal appeals court in New York on Thursday, a ruling that clears the way for the NFL to enforce the six-game suspension of the Dallas Cowboys running back over allegations of domestic violence.

The ruling came about an hour after Elliott’s hearing in front of a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Elliott was denied an injunction as merits of his case against the NFL is resolved because he “failed to meet the requisite standard” under federal case law, according to the opinion issued. 

NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart told reporters on a conference call Thursday that Elliott would be immediately suspended if the appeal court denied the injunction.

The appeals court did approve an expedited appeal and set a hearing for Dec. 1. In the meantime, Elliott remains suspended and will miss at least the next four games – starting with Sundays’ game against the Atlanta Falcons – ahead of the hearing.

Thursday’s decision backed up U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla’s denial of a preliminary injunction, who ruled the courts were not a forum to “micromanage the disciplinary decisions.”

“Elliott and the Cowboys are better off living with the decision,” former assistant U.S. Attorney David S. Weinstein, partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson, told USA TODAY Sports. “Let the other running backs and (quarterback) Dak (Prescott) carry the load. Elliott will be back at the end of the season and he’ll be rested and ready for the drive toward the playoffs.”

Lawyers for the NFL Players Association, who represent Elliott, could ask all 22 judges of the 2nd Circuit to reconsider Thursday’s decision that denied Elliott an injunction, known as an en banc petition. The NFLPA also likely would seek a stay of Thursday’s ruling as the rehearing petition is considered. 

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Weinstein said the chances a rehearing would be granted are beyond remote, primarily because Elliott — as Failla ruled last week — has failed to show he’d be irreparably harmed. 

“We are not dealing with a death penalty case or somebody facing deportation here,” Weinstein said. “That’s irreparable harm. If Elliott ultimately wins in court, he will get back all the money he’d lose because of the suspension.”

The 2nd Circuit is the same judicial body that eventually ruled in the NFL’s favor in New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s Deflategate case last year. The appeals court ruled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, under terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, has broad authority to enforce the personal conduct policy. 

If Elliott serves the term of his ban uninterrupted, he would be eligible to return on Christmas Eve as the Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks.

Elliott’s suspension was announced in August after a year-long investigation by the NFL. While he was not arrested or charged by prosecutors, the NFL cited statements from Elliott’s former girlfriend and photos that showed injuries Elliott allegedly inflicted in July 2016 for the basis for his suspension.

Thursday’s decision marks the latest turn in the legal row that began in September in a Texas federal court.

Up until Thursday, Elliott had successfully avoided enforcement of the six-game ban, the baseline punishment for domestic violence under the league’s personal conduct policy. That policy was updated after former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence case.

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