The NFL denied hiding "critical information" in the case involving Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott after the NFL Players Association filed a temporary restraining order to prevent the league from enforcing any suspension.
The NFLPA filed a request in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on Thursday to block any suspension upheld by arbitrator Harold Henderson involving Elliott, who has been suspended six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
The 22-year-old Elliott is appealing a six-game suspension for domestic violence. The punishment was issued by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug. 11 after a 13 month-long investigation revealed Elliott allegedly assaulted Tiffany Thompson, who said she was Elliott's girlfriend.
The players' union accuses the league's appeals process of being "fundamentally unfair" and citing new facts revealed during this week's hearing that wrapped up Thursday.
The union's petition alleges the league deliberately hid critical information from Elliott and the union that could have been used to exonerate him, including that the NFL's lead investigator on the case, Kia Roberts, produced an internal memo in which she had issues with Thompson's credibility.
Inconsistent statements from Thompson resulted in Roberts recommending that Elliott receive no suspension, according to multiple reports.
"They're trying to create a grand conspiracy story where none exists," league spokesman Joe Lockhart told NFL.com on Friday.
Lockhart said the allegation that league executives conspired to keep the opinions of Roberts from commissioner Roger Goodell is not accurate.
"I can tell you without any hesitation that this is false," Lockhart told Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio on Friday morning. "It's categorically false that the information was kept from the commissioner."
The three-day appeal before Henderson ended Thursday after more than 25 hours of discussion, including Elliott testifying in his own defense. A ruling is expected by Monday. A source told ESPN that Elliott's side will file more paperwork Friday.
Roberts, who interviewed Thompson on multiple occasions, has become a central figure in this case.
Lockhart told Pro Football Talk that the NFL did not designate her as a witness. Elliott requested that she be required to testify and arbitrator Henderson agreed.
Roberts, the NFL director of investigations, was the only one to conduct interviews with Thompson, and also reportedly testified before Henderson that she wasn't asked to attend a meeting with NFL senior vice president of investigations Lisa Friel and Goodell.
During that meeting, Friel recommended that Elliott, who was not charged or arrested, receive a six-game ban. Friel testified that she was aware of Roberts' concerns and also confirmed that Roberts was not asked to attend the meeting.
In the court filing, the NFLPA maintained that "there was a league-orchestrated conspiracy by senior NFL executives ... to hide critical information which would completely exonerate Elliott."
The NFLPA also said Henderson denied attempts by Elliott's attorneys to have Thompson testify.
If Henderson rules that Elliott should be suspended for any amount of games, the court could stay the suspension while it reviews the situation with Elliott potentially playing while the case works its way through the courts.
The NFLPA also said "without testimony from the commissioner, it was not possible to determine the full impact of the conspiracy, or precisely what the commissioner knew or did not know about his co-lead investigator's conclusion that there was not sufficient credible evidence to proceed with any discipline under a League Personal Conduct Policy."
Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft, led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards during his rookie season.