A judge sided with Ezekiel Elliott on Friday and blocked the NFL from enforcing its six-game suspension against the Dallas Cowboys running back.
U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said Elliott did not receive a fair hearing before the NFL arbitrator, so he granted a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension. Elliott will now likely play the entire 2017 season.
"We are very pleased that Mr. Elliott will finally be given the opportunity to have an impartial decision-maker carefully examine the NFL's misconduct," Elliott's attorneys said in joint statement. "This is just the beginning of the unveiling of the NFL's mishandling as it relates to Mr. Elliott's suspension."
About the time of the ruling, Elliott posted a highlight video on Instagram with a message that read, "Momma told me if ya fall never stay down." He hasn't spoken publicly since the Cowboys reported for training camp in late July.
Arbitrator Harold Henderson turned down Elliott's appeal of the suspension the same day as the hearing in federal court. Henderson ruled that the NFL complied with its personal conduct policy in punishing Elliott and rejected any claims that Elliott's attorneys presented new evidence at the appeal.
Mazzant's ruling took aim at Henderson and the NFL, saying decisions not to allow Goodell and Thompson to testify at the appeal were among several factors unfair to Elliott.
The judge also faulted the league for what he saw as several efforts to conceal the opinion of co-lead investigator Kia Roberts. She testified at the appeal that she didn't think Thompson was credible and didn't support any punishment for Elliott.
Mazzant noted that Henderson allowed Roberts to testify at the appeal over the objections of NFL attorneys who claimed her testimony would be consistent with what was presented to Goodell when he made the decision to suspend Elliott.
"Luckily, the NFLPA found the fairness needle in the unfairness haystack and Henderson ordered Roberts to testify," Mazzant wrote. "The arbitration record shows that Roberts' testimony was everything but unnecessary, consistent, and cumulative."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league was reviewing the decision and would discuss its next steps with attorneys, including possible appeals in district court and with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We strongly believe that the investigation and evidence supported the commissioner's decision and that the process was meticulous and fair throughout," McCarthy said.
Elliott was suspended when the NFL concluded after a yearlong investigation that Elliott had several physical altercations with his girlfriend at the time last summer in Ohio. Prosecutors declined to pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence. Elliott has denied wrongdoing.
According to the letter Elliott received informing him of the suspension three weeks ago, the NFL believed he used "physical force" three times in a span of five days in a Columbus, Ohio, apartment last July resulting in injuries to Thompson's face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees.
Prosecutors in Columbus decided about a year ago not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, but the NFL kept the investigation open. The league said its conclusions were based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.