Deshan Watson’s suspension will test the NFL’s support for women

Six games off. That is suspension. That’s it.

The ruling was delivered Monday by retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson to punish Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson after reviewing the arguments against and against him.

Robinson, the arbitrator overseeing Watson’s hearing, decided against the NFL’s recommendation that Watson receive a suspension of at least one year after being accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage treatment.

Reviewing the results of the league’s 15-month investigation into Watson, it deemed his conduct “predatory” and “arrogant”.

The clock now ticks on the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. What will be the league’s next step in the scandalous spectacle of the Deshan Watson case?

The NFL has until Thursday morning to appeal. Goodell could opt for a longer suspension, a decision Union and Watson would most likely challenge in federal court. He could also impose a fine that would take back some of the roughly $45 million Watson received as a signing bonus from the Browns. But if the NFL gives up without a fight, it will all say how it views women and how seriously they take their stories.

And Watson apologizes to all of you: Robinson agreed without reservation that Watson had done wrong. He exposed himself. He deliberately touched women with his penis repeatedly.

Here is a sampling of his findings:

Against the four physicians identified in the league’s report, “the NFL bears its burden to prove by a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Watson has been involved in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL)”.

“The NFL bears its burden by the primacy of the evidence to prove that Mr. Watson’s conduct poses a real threat to the safety and welfare of another person.”

“Mr. Watson knew that this kind of sexual contact was unwanted.”

“Mr. Watson has reckless disregard for the consequences of his conduct, which I find to be the equivalent of willful conduct.”

And yet, Robinson said she was limited. She could have given a more severe punishment, but she refused to set the precedent. Instead, she leaned on the NFL’s history of generosity. “The most common discipline for domestic or sexual violence and sexual acts is a six-game suspension,” Robinson said.

It listed players’ other suspensions, including one that had to sit for 10 games “for multiple incidents of domestic violence for which the player pleaded guilty to battery.”

Leaning on example is understandable, even laudable. But this decision was not made in court. The NFL is not required to accept Robinson’s recommendation, especially not in a case in which the player’s contract is structured, as Watson’s was, to avoid a significant financial hit to the suspension. When he signed a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract with the Browns in March, the team agreed to a basic salary of $1 million, meaning Watson would lose $300,000 in game checks during his six-game suspension. will lose more.

The league is a private organization. It can punish if it thinks fit. If Watson, his lawyers and the players’ union have a problem with it, they can sue.

Let them go right ahead and put the allegations against Watson in the public eye.

The harassment of women in the NFL is hardly novel, which often stands for the Neanderthal Football League. I wrote as much last week when Congress — not the league — tried to account for the culture and misdeeds of Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder pulling his team’s finger.

The Washington Post reported That Snyder settled a sexual misconduct claim stemming from an incident in 2009. The NFL investigation into Watson lasted 15 months. These drawn-out inquiries spiral into a theater of absurdity simply because the league and its commissioner haven’t set precedents that allow decisive action—the kind that would clearly indicate that the NFL does not tolerate abuse of women.

As Watson’s decision now stands, in six matches without a penalty, no one wins.

Not the women, whose lawyer described the suspension as “a slap in the face”.

Not the league, whose personal conduct policy “defines, addresses and sanctions” players whose actions are detrimental to the image of the NFL.

Not the Browns, a franchise that has proven that she will outgrow her dignity and sell her soul for a chance to eventually become a Super Bowl contender.

Not Watson, who, despite being mobilized by Browns fans at training camp, will forever be mentioned as one of the league’s innings, an example of its misogynistic culture.

Not victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse or their advocates. “We prepare ourselves for this kind of disappointment,” Cleveland Rape Crisis Center president Sondra Miller said in an interview Monday. “It is a general feeling that criminals are not held accountable for their actions. So, that is part of what we are feeling today.”

Who else? Certainly not the women who came forward with the stories of abuse Robinson called “sexual behavior.”

Twenty-four women allege in the lawsuits that Watson engaged in sexually coercive and lewd behavior during a massage from the fall of 2019 to March 2021.

Watson was not indicted in criminal court and all but one of his accusers were settled. This is not an unusual result, given how difficult it is to prosecute sexual misconduct cases, which often occur in private and come down to conflicting accounts of the two people involved.

But when the NFL tightened its personal conduct policy in 2014, In response to feedback on Ray Rice’s discipline, Goodell wrote that the league held itself to “a high standard”.

To do well on that statement, common sense must prevail. Women are to be believed, especially when many come forward with stories of harassment and abuse.

Robinson makes it clear that he believes sexual misconduct took place, but he is hindered by the league’s past when it comes to punishment. The NFL has been off the mark, being much more lenient about policing itself and serving up punishments that back up its point of view on women.

It’s time to start fixing the course. The league and its commissioner must stand up against Monday’s decision and prepare for battle.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: