This Week In Sports Law: Ezekiel Elliott Suspension, New NCAA Concussion Case, Zach Randolph Arrest


Dallas Cowboys starting running back Ezekiel Elliott should be sidelined for the first six games of the regular-season. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Ezekiel Elliott Suspended Six Games By NFL

On Friday, the NFL dropped major news when it announced that it was suspending Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott without pay for six regular-season games after it determined that Elliott violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. The NFL separately sent Elliott a “confidential” letter, which has since been leaked and references Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as grounds for Elliott’s punishment.

“Over the course of the last year, the league conducted an extensive investigation,” stated the NFL’s release. “League investigators interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including Ms. Tiffany Thompson, who had alleged multiple instances of physical violence in July 2016, and Mr. Elliott. The league also consulted with medical experts. League investigators examined all available evidence, including photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used four external advisors to assist him in making the determination to suspend Elliott for six games, which was definitely a measure taken in an effort to avoid enhanced scrutiny of his decision when Elliott seeks to invalidate the suspension. And Elliott is certainly planning to take action to at least stay the penalty.

Elliott’s attorneys Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum expressed extreme disappointment in the NFL’s decision and they say that the NFL’s findings are “replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it ‘cherry picks’ so called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evident.”

Here Comes Another College Concussion-Related Lawsuit

A new lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the American Southwest Conference (ASC) has somewhat flown under the radar of many journalists this week. The suit, filed by plaintiff David Foreman in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is in the form of a class action complaint that claims the defendants sacrificed player safety in favor of profits and self-promotion.

It is essentially another concussion-related case, where Foreman says that the NCAA and ASC were negligent and failed to implement and enforce regulations that would properly protect student-athletes from the risks associated with concussions and/or manage those risks.

“By the early-1990s at the latest, the NCAA was aware that the number of concussions was increasing and occurring over a broad range of sports (the ASC was aware of this threat when it was formed in 1994),” states the Complaint. “Despite this knowledge, the NCAA and its member conferences suppressed and kept secret from student-athletes, information about the extent of concussion injuries in NCAA college football and their long-term consequences.”

The lawsuit was filed on August 7 and there has not been a response filed as of yet.

NBA Veteran Zach Randolph Dealing With A Weed Issue

Thirty-six year old NBA veteran Zach Randolph found himself arrested with allegedly possessing two pound of weed in a large backpack. The arrest was for possession with intent to sell, which is considered a felony.

The expectation is that the NBA and the Sacramento Kings, which employs Randolph, will hold off on taking any disciplinary action against him. If the NBA wants, it could likely suspend Randolph under Article 35 of the NBA Constitution which gives the Commissioner the power to suspend a player for any “conduct that does not conform to standards of morality or fair play, that does not comply at all times with all federal, state, and local laws, or that is prejudicial or detrimental to the NBA.”

NFL Gets Some Relief From Insurers In Concussion-Related Case

The NFL has come to settlements with six out of the dozens of insurers that it is litigating against with regard to the massive concussion settlement that players had to register for by a deadline that passed earlier this month. There is strong incentive for the NFL to settle the claims in order to do whatever is necessary to avoid potentially devastating evidence from reaching the public eye, which could come out in a lawsuit’s discovery process. There is also good reason for the insurers to come to the table with at least some money to cover a part of the enormous costs incurred by the NFL in order to continue solid relationships with the NFL, which undoubtedly pays large premiums for coverage.

Blind Man Sues Miami Marlins Based On Discrimination

Before Jeffrey Loria gets rid of his team to a group that includes Derek Jeter, he will have to deal with a lawsuit filed by a blind man who claims that the Marlins and SeatGeek violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Andres Gomez has filed a lawsuit that claims he felt “segregation, rejection, and isolation” because he was told that he must search on the Internet to review the team’s schedule and purchase tickets.

While the lawsuit may sound frivolous, apparently Gomez settled a similar lawsuit against the Miami Heat only four days prior to filing his action against the Marlins.

Houston Nutt’s Lawsuit Will Continue, But In A New Forum

Former Ole Miss head football coach Houston Nutt made an offer to settle his case against his former employer if Ole Miss made a public apology for making what he calls false statements about him and promised to donate $500,000 to create a state commission on sports ethics. But before the end of the week, Nutt’s lawsuit was dismissed, with Nutt going back to square one in his fight against the school.

Nutt’s lawyer appears to have made a mistake when it came to jurisdiction, as there was no diversity nor a subject matter that included a federal question. That said, the lawyer indicated that he plans to re-file the case in state court. So it is not quite over for Ole Miss just yet.

FanDuel Finds A Way To Appease Shareholders In Wake Of Merger Collapse

In the aftermath of FanDuel and DraftKings deciding toforego prior plans to merge (after the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and made it clear that it was seeking to block the move), at least FanDuel is funnelingmore of its equity to financial backers. Those investors who pumped money into the company in 2014 as part of a $70 million raise have received an additional share for every two shares they maintained, and other who participating in a $275 million round in 2015 were provided 2.35 new shares for each existing share.

Outside investment in the company now makes up 71% of ownership, whereas it was at 54% prior to the equity increase measure.

Georgia GOP Gets Ready For A Fight On Legalized Gambling

The State of Georgia has a fight on its hands in the form of legalizing gambling, with the Georgia GOP state committee recently passing a resolution, by an overwhelming margin, that opposes land-based casino and casino online varieties. Concerns that gambling is tied to an increase in crime and divorce were cited in the resolution.

Originally, the resolution included the prohibition of paid fantasy sports; however, that portion of the resolution has since been stricken.

“The Georgia GOP faithful made a conscious decision to remove fantasy sports from this resolution,” said Georgia State Rep. Trey Kelley. “Their action is in line with my repeated statements and the beliefs of mainstream Georgians that fantasy sports is a game of skill and a completely different issue from casino gambling.”

Darren Heitner the Founder of South Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C. and Sports Agent Blog. He authored the book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.