Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshan Watson was suspended for six games Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following sexual misconduct allegations made against him by two dozen women in Texas, two people familiar with the decision said. Told.
People spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been released publicly. Watson, who played four seasons with Houston before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and assault by massage therapists during appointments in 2020 and 2021.
After learning that a decision was imminent, the NFL Players Association issued a joint statement with Watson on Sunday night, saying they would not appeal the decision to Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson and urging the league to follow suit. did.
“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished by the whims of the league office,” the union said in a statement.
If both parties appeal, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him will make a decision in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The union could then attempt to challenge that decision in federal court.
As he awaits the verdict, Watson has been in training camp with the Browns. He continues to take the majority of reps with a first-team offense, which will be replaced by Jacoby Brissette’s backup while he is sidelined.
During a three-day hearing before Robinson in June, the league imposed an indefinite suspension of at least one year and a $5 million fine for Watson, 26. The NFL Players Association argued that Watson should not be punished at all because he was not convicted of any crime.
Two grand juries in Texas refused to indict Watson on criminal complaints brought by 10 women.
It was the first case for former U.S. District Judge Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the union to handle player misconduct — a role previously held by Goodell.
A three-time Pro Bowl pick with the Texans, Watson has seen his playing career stalled by allegations that he treated women inappropriately during scheduled massage therapy sessions via social media. He sat out the 2021 season.
In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing themselves, touching him with their penis, or kissing him against their will. A woman alleged that Watson forced her to have oral sex.
Watson has denied all wrongdoing, insisting that any sexual activity with the three women was consensual. He publicly insisted that his goal was to clear his name before entering a confidential financial settlement with 20 women on June 21.
Watson’s high-profile case has renewed the league’s investigation into its support for women as well as its handling of player abuse, and has left Brown wondering if he’ll ever get a franchise quarterback.
Since the trade, Watson has been on public display, with fans questioning whether the league had the authority to ban him from playing despite no criminal charges.
The league has been sensitive about its image and assigned appropriate discipline to Watson after being criticized for its handling of past sexual misconduct cases, including Baltimore to Ray Rice, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Cleveland among others. Including Karim Hunt running back.
For his part, Brown was widely condemned for signing Watson. The team is desperate to find a long-term answer in the quarterback—he’s had a league-high 32 starts since 1999—and many questioned why the team would take on a player with so much baggage.
During his introductory news conference after doing business in Cleveland, Watson was adamant about his innocence.
“I have never assaulted, humiliated or harassed a woman in my life,” he said on stage, where he was joined by Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefansky. “I was raised differently. That’s not my DNA. That’s not my culture. That’s not me as a person.”
He repeated those comments three months later during Brown’s minicamp, insisting that his only goal was to clear his name. However, a week later he settled 20 civil cases. Any remaining lawsuits could still go to trial, but not until 2023 unless both sides agree to wait until after the upcoming season.
On July 15, 30 women settled lawsuits against the Texans after claiming that the team did not heed and enabled Watson because he harassed and assaulted them during therapy sessions. The terms of the settlements were kept confidential.
Despite Watson’s legal entanglement, Brown – along with several other teams – pursued Watson after the first grand jury refused to indict him.
Initially, Watson turned down Brown. But Cleveland owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam lured him in with a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.
Watson had other offers but chose Brown and waived his no-trade clause to join the team coming into a disappointing 8–9 season. Cleveland completed the deal on March 18 by agreeing to send Houston three first-round draft picks and a total of six selections for Watson.
The Haslams said that any concerns they had about his character or behavior went away when he went to Houston with Berry and Stefanski and spent time talking to Watson.
An All-American in Clemson, Watson was drafted by the Texans with the number 12 pick in 2017. He started six games in his second year as a rookie before passing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Watson has developed into one of the league’s elite QBs, despite playing for a Texans team that threw for 4,823 yards and 33 TDs in 2020, which was just 4-12.
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