Roger Goodell needs to get it right.
The commissioner of the NFL needs to keep Deshan Watson off the football field in 2022.
Robinson’s recommendation of a six-game suspension announced Monday will see the Cleveland Browns quarterback return to a football field by October.
this is unacceptable.
Robinson, a neutral arbitrator chosen and paid jointly by the league and the players’ union, acknowledged Watson’s “lack of expressed remorse” in his 16-page ruling on his alleged sexual assaults on the massage therapist. In total, twenty-four women filed civil lawsuits against the former Houston Texans QB.
The judge said, “Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is stronger than any reviewed by the NFL.”
She also said that Watson violated three provisions of the Personal Conduct Policy: sexual harassment, conduct that poses a real threat to the safety and well-being of individuals, and conduct that undermines or puts the integrity of the NFL at risk. Puts.
Nevertheless, Robinson used precedent in the NFL’s enforcement of “nonviolent sexual assault” to keep Watson’s suspension to just six games.
Robinson wrote, “Discipline in earlier cases involving nonviolent sexual assault has been much less severe than the one proposed here by the NFL, with the most severe penalty being a 3-game suspension for a player who has previously been convicted of his conduct. A warning was given.” ,
“While it may be entirely appropriate to more severely discipline players for nonviolent sexual conduct,” the judge said, “I do not believe it is appropriate to do so without notice of extraordinary change, given the situation.” Reflects for the NFL and its players.”
First, let’s be very clear: “Nonviolent sexual assault” is the kind of atrocious oxymoron that can only be found in an American law magazine or NFL rulebook.
But beyond that offense against language, acknowledging the unprecedented nature of Watson’s conduct and then hiding behind precedent to avoid an unprecedented punishment is fraudulent and faulty logic.
It’s the same argument used by our justice system, which often fails sexual assault victims, and which Robinson reflects in his capacity as a judge. This gives the NFL no credibility to appoint a former judge in cases when the system it has come from is clearly flawed in sexual harassment cases.
The NFL players’ union is apparently not going to appeal the decision and has resolved not to do so prior to Robinson’s public announcement.
But the NFL has three business days to appeal, and if the league does, Goodell will have the power to issue a “full, final and complete settlement of the dispute.”
In other words, Goodell can still play the role of judge and jury here.
And while the commissioner’s wrongdoing in a Ray Rice domestic violence case will always be a stain to his record and the league, he has an opportunity to set a strong precedent for Watson’s unprecedented behavior going forward.
A statement released by the NFL in the wake of Robinson’s decision left the door open for a possible appeal.
“We thank Independent Disciplinary Officer Judge Sue L. Robinson for her voluntary record and attention review during the three-day hearing that resulted in her finding multiple violations of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy,” said NFL spokesman Brian. McCarthy said in the statement. “We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of Judge Robinson throughout this process.
“Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL or the NFLPA on Watson’s behalf may appeal the decision within three days,” the statement said. “In light of his findings, league judge is reviewing Robinson’s six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps.”
Robinson’s six-game suspension on Monday was incredibly hollow as he simultaneously recommended that Watson “confine his massage therapy to club-directed sessions and club-approved massage therapists for the duration of his career.”
Here the judge acknowledged that Watson had “engaged in sexual harassment”, and was essentially cautioning that he could not be relied upon in similar situations in the future, but that he would have to cut short his NFL career anyway. allows to restart.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, memorably told a Houston radio station in early June that the “happy ending” is not a crime—an admission of Watson’s alleged pattern of behavior, if there ever was one, even though Hardin didn’t. Said a court of law.
Instead, Robinson noted the NFLPA’s argument that it would not be “fair and consistent” to severely punish Watson, but also “not accuse various team owners who have been accused of similar or worse conduct.” Has been charged.”
This clear allusion to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s 2019 alleged solicitation at a Florida massage parlor seems to equate to consensual sexual act—for which four defendants working at Orchid of Asia pleaded guilty to sexual assault. Simultaneously, he faced felony charges. Such an argument reflects what Hardin really thinks about his client’s alleged crimes: he doesn’t consider consent to be relevant.
Watson had already settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits against him earlier this week. Then the plaintiff’s attorney, Tony Buzby, announced that three of the remaining four civil cases had been settled on Monday. Now Robinson’s decision has almost cleared up Watson’s crimes behind-the-scenes.
The judge said that while Watson did not play during the 2021 season, Goodell “refused to place him on administrative leave, under which any game missed would be attributed to any subsequent suspension.”
So it is possible that Goodell could accept Robinson’s six-game decision and simply add a hefty penalty, acknowledging that Watson has already played a full year.
However, everyone will see the right through that political settlement. The NFL would lose more credibility by limiting women’s well-being and safety to a footnote.
The NFL had already recommended that Watson be suspended for at least the entire 2022 NFL regular and postseason. Robinson disagreed. But Goodell has the final say.
It’s time to use it.