Six-game suspension |  NFL appeals penalty imposed on Deshaun Watson

Six-game suspension | NFL appeals penalty imposed on Deshaun Watson

The NFL has appealed the six-game suspension imposed on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, giving commissioner Roger Goodell or anyone he designates the authority to impose a more severe penalty.

Posted at 4:22 p.m.

Rob Maaddi
Associated Press

Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson delivered her judgment on Monday. Watson has been accused by 24 Texas women of sexual misconduct during massage therapy treatments while playing for the Houston Texans.

In his 16-page report, Robinson called Watson’s behavior “the most abhorrent to ever come to the attention of the NFL.”

The penalty imposed by Robinson — in her first case since being jointly chosen by the league and the Players Association (NFLPA) — was much less than the indefinite suspension of at least one year that the NFL.

The league has therefore decided to appeal the decision, as authorized by the collective agreement.

The NFLPA has until the end of the day on Friday to respond in writing. The union could challenge this appeal in federal court, which would set the stage for a long legal battle.

It is the first since the ratification of the new collective agreement, in 2020, that the league and the union have turned to a jointly appointed prefect of discipline to establish the degree of contravention of the personal conduct policy of the league. In the past, Goodell acted as judge and jury to impose penalties on players.

By filing its appeal, the NFL returns power to Goodell, who can choose another prefect.

An NFL executive told The Associated Press ahead of Watson’s three-day hearings in June that the league wanted to avoid an appeal.

But she still decided to go ahead while several supporters criticized this sentence. Other factors considered include the lack of remorse expressed by Watson, noted by Robinson in his report.

The NFL wanted an unprecedented sentence imposed on Watson, whom it wanted to sanction for an additional 5 million US dollars, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, since the hearing was not public.

Watson, who played four seasons for the Texans before missing last campaign and being traded to the Browns in March, recently settled 23 of 24 massage harassment or sexual assault lawsuits filed against him in 2020 and 2021 out of court. . Two Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on the 10 criminal complaints filed by these women.

Robinson found that Watson violated three rules of the NFL Code of Conduct: sexual assault, conduct posing a real danger to the safety and well-being of others; as well as conduct that may bring the integrity of the NFL into disrepute.

She declined to suspend Watson for a full season based on previously imposed suspensions and current league policy. But Robinson added that a longer suspension would be in order if it was clearly defined in the code of conduct.

Watson was able to practice with the Browns during proceedings, which raised questions about how the league handles misconduct off the field and its support for women.

The Browns were also at an impasse, unsure if or when Watson was going to be available this season.

The team traded three first-round picks to the Texans for Watson, giving him a new five-year, $230 million contract.

Watson, however, will only lose $345,000 if the suspension is not changed, as his base salary for the next season will be $1.035 million.

Associated Press reporter Tom Withers contributed to this article from Cleveland.

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