Deshaun Watson Settles With The NFL On A Eleven-Game Suspension – Deshaun Watson has struck a deal with the NFL and will serve an 11-game ban and pay a $5 million fine rather than risk missing his debut season as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback, according to a person with knowledge of the case who spoke with The Associated Press.
Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by twenty-five women during his tenure with the Houston Texans. The individual disclosed the settlement between Watson and the league, which had tried to suspend him for at least one year for breaking its personal conduct standard, on Thursday on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been made public.
The deal concludes months of posturing between Watson’s legal team, the NFL, and NFLPA. As part of the deal, Watson may play for the Browns against the Texans on December 4. Two dozen women accused Deshaun Watson, shown here during the Cleveland Browns’ training camp in August 2022, of sexual assault when he played for the Houston Texans.
Sue L. Robinson, a retired federal judge selected by the league and union to serve as an independent disciplinary officer, banned the three-time Pro Bowler for six games beginning on August 1.
After evaluating an inquiry into Watson’s activities, Robinson determined he had broken the league’s personal conduct rules and deemed his behavior “egregious” and “predatory.”
The league, believing the penalty was too small, appealed and sent Watson’s case back to Goodell, who had previously handled all player disciplinary. Previously, the league advocated for an extended ban and a large punishment.
Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey was nominated by Goodell to hear the appeal. Harvey is an attorney who was engaged in the NFL’s decision to ban Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games for domestic abuse charges during the 2017 season.
Harvey’s ruling would have represented a “full, final, and complete resolution” of the issue under the collective bargaining agreement for 2020.
Goodell said at this month’s owners meetings that the league’s pursuit of a one-year suspension was appropriate in light of its investigation and Robinson’s conclusions.
“She bolstered the evidence,” said Goodell. Multiple serious infractions were committed, constituting predatory conduct.
Robinson noted Watson’s lack of regret as a deciding element in her finding. Before making his preseason debut with the Browns in Jacksonville, Watson apologized for the first time “to all the ladies that I have affected.”
Watson was allegedly sexually inappropriate with the ladies during massage treatment sessions in Texas between March 2020 and March 2101. In Texas legal cases, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, groping them with his penis, and forcibly kissing them. One lady said Watson compelled her to engage in oral sex.
Watson, who has denied misconduct, was not indicted by two different grand juries in Texas. Recently, he resolved 23 of 24 cases.
The ban ends months of debate as to whether Watson would play for the Browns in 2022. The Browns outbid many other clubs, gave three first-round draft selections to the Texans, and signed Watson to a five-year, $230 million deal in March.
Watson’s case stirred strong sentiments and raised issues over the league’s approach to player sanctions and its inconsistent record of supporting women.
The Browns feel Watson might make them contenders for the Super Bowl. Without him, they may struggle to compete in the AFC North against Cincinnati, the incumbent conference champion, as well as Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The punishment also extends Watson’s period of inactivity. As one of the finest quarterbacks in the NFL, he sat out last season in Houston after requesting a trade and before the sexual accusations were made public.
Robinson concluded in her 16-page judgement that the league established its case that Watson violated three articles of the conduct policy: sexual assault as defined by the league, endangering the safety and well-being of another, and undermining or threatening the integrity of the league.
Robinson also highlighted problems in the league’s conduct rules, stating that it was unfair to “define behavior as forbidden only after the conduct has been committed, just as it is fundamentally unfair to adjust the consequences for such conduct after the fact.”
Several groups, including the National Organization for Women, slammed her penalty as “unacceptable, demeaning, and dangerous – but not unexpected. The National Football League and the multibillion-dollar sports business have a financial interest in facilitating sexual misbehavior, assault, and violence.”
Tony Buzbee, who represents all 24 women who sued Watson, and Ashley Solis, the first woman to go forward with charges against Watson, criticized the first six-game punishment during an early August press conference in Houston.
Watson has continued to train while his case has being processed by the league. During Watson’s suspension, the Browns intended to turn their offense over to veteran Jacoby Brissett, who has 37 career starts. However, it is now feasible that Cleveland may examine other QB possibilities.
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