Sue L. Robinson, a former Federal judge and the disciplinary officer for the NFL has finally made her ruling on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. Robinson has issued a six game suspension without pay for Watson.
Watson has had over two dozen women file complaints against him for sexual misconduct while he was the quarterback for the Houston Texans. Many of the suits that allege that Watson acted inappropriately toward them during a massage have been settled out of court with one of the cases pending a trial. While no criminal charges have been filed, the NFL is seeking further punishment on Watson for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Watson has ardently maintained his innocence since the allegations became public last year.
The NFL had been asking for a much stiffer penalty against Watson. They have three days in which to file an appeal of the ruling by Robinson. As a part of the 16 page ruling Robinson said, “although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
In addition to the six game suspension, Watson may use only team authorized massage therapists for the remainder of his professional football career and must steer clear of any entanglements with law enforcement or violations of the NFL personal conduct policy.
The NFL Players Association stated that they would abide by Robinson’s ruling. However, should the NFL choose to appeal the ruling, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, or his designee, may pass what they deem an “appropriate punishment” for Watson’s conduct. The NFL may determine a punishment according to collective bargaining rules, but the FLPA may challenge the ruling with a possible settlement in the federal courts.
During the hearing the NFL was seeking a much stiffer suspension and a fine for Watson.
Currently, Deshaun Watson has a five year$230 million guaranteed contract that includes a $45 million signing bonus. His actual salary for 2022 is $1,035 million. As a result, if the suspension stands, he will loose $345,000 of that salary.
The suspension if for regular season games only, which means Watson may participate in camp, practices, and pre-season games. While he will not be allowed on the playing field until October 23 when the Browns play the Baltimore Ravens, he may return to team facilities for practice beginning in week number four.
While some of the fans cheered Watson when he took the practice field when camp opened, his greeting among team mates has been a lackluster affair.