Twenty-five women have sued the Cleveland quarterback for sexual assault.
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The Professional Football League (NFL) on Wednesday appealed the six-game suspension imposed Monday on Deshaun Watson, the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, the subject of an investigation for sexual assaults on several women, most massage therapists by profession.
The NFL, believing that Watson violated its code of conduct, had pleaded for a suspension of at least a full season for Watson, despite the absence of criminal charges against him. No criminal charges had been brought against him, despite civil lawsuits brought by 25 women who accused him of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during massage sessions.
Mediator Sue L. Robinson, appointed as a disciplinary officer by the NFL and the League Players Union (NFLPA), concluded after investigation that a six-game sanction was appropriate against Watson, who did not never stopped denying any wrongdoing.
Ms Robinson delivered her findings on Monday after hearing arguments in June from the league, union and Watson’s attorneys, on five specific cases presented by the NFL. The incidents took place between March 2020 and March 2021. Watson was then a Houston Texans player. Robinson felt that “Watson’s inappropriate behavior was egregious”, but that the cases presented for his judgment showed “non-violent sexual conduct” and did not merit a harsher sanction than the decided six-match suspension.
The NFL, deeming the sanction against Watson insufficient, informed the players’ union that it would appeal. The decision is now in the hands of Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. He can decide himself on the final sanction, or appeal again to a third person. With more than a month to go, the disciplinary case continues to threaten the star’s immediate future with the Browns, who signed him in March to a record-breaking $230 million guaranteed deal on five years, knowing that he risked a long-term suspension.
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