The NFL is interesting a disciplinary officer’s resolution to droop Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six video games for violating the league’s private conduct coverage, giving Commissioner Roger Goodell or somebody he designates authority to impose a stiffer penalty.
Former federal choose Sue L. Robinson issued her ruling Monday after Watson was accused by two dozen girls in Texas of sexual misconduct throughout therapeutic massage remedies whereas he performed for the Houston Texans.
In her 16-page report, Robinson described Watson’s conduct as “extra egregious than any earlier than reviewed by the NFL.”
Robinson’s punishment — in her first case since being collectively appointed by the league and NFL Gamers Affiliation — fell properly wanting the indefinite suspension of at the least one yr sought by the league.
So, the NFL on Wednesday exercised its proper to attraction, per the collective bargaining settlement.
The gamers’ union has till the top of enterprise Friday to reply in writing. The union may problem the attraction ruling in federal court docket, setting the stage for a chronic combat.
That is the primary time because the new collective bargaining settlement was signed in 2020 that the league and the NFLPA turned to a collectively appointed disciplinary officer to find out violations of the private conduct coverage. Up to now, Goodell has served as choose and jury to impose penalties on gamers.
By interesting, the NFL is giving that energy again to Goodell, who can selected one other particular person to levy any punishment.
A league official informed The Related Press earlier than Watson’s three-day disciplinary listening to concluded in June that the NFL needed to keep away from an attraction.
However the league proceeded with one amid a backlash from some followers. Different elements embody Watson’s lack of regret, which Robinson famous in her report.
The NFL argued for an unprecedented punishment and needed to wonderful Watson at the least $5 million, an individual conversant in the discussions informed the AP on situation of anonymity as a result of the listening to was personal.
Watson, who performed 4 seasons with the Texans earlier than sitting out final season after which being traded to Cleveland in March, lately settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by the ladies who alleged sexual harassment or assault throughout therapeutic massage remedies in 2020 and 2021. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on legal complaints introduced by 10 of the ladies.
Robinson concluded that Watson violated three provisions of the private conduct coverage: sexual assault; conduct posing a real hazard to the protection and well-being of one other particular person; and conduct that undermines or places in danger the integrity of the NFL.
She declined to droop Watson for a full yr based mostly on precedents and the league’s present coverage. However Robinson concluded an extended suspension might be justified if it was already outlined within the private conduct coverage.
“Whereas it might be completely applicable to extra severely self-discipline gamers for non-violent sexual conduct, I don’t consider it’s applicable to take action with out discover of the extraordinary change this place portends for the NFL and its gamers,” Robinson wrote in her report.
Watson has continued to follow with the Browns whereas awaiting decision to his case, which has raised questions in regards to the league’s dealing with of off-field participant conduct, inconsistencies in its private conduct coverage and its general assist of girls.
The Browns have been in a state of limbo as properly, not realizing when or if Watson will have the ability to play this season.
Cleveland traded three first-round picks to Houston for the three-time Professional Bowl QB and signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract.
Watson will lose solely $345,000 if the suspension is unchanged as a result of his base wage this season is $1.035 million.
Story by Rob Maaddi. AP Sports activities Author Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.