Editors’ note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
The Browns, Deshaun Watson and the NFL are currently awaiting a ruling from Roger Goodell’s designee regarding the league’s appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension.
Watson is currently slated to sit out the first six games in 2022 following a recommendation from disciplinary officer Judge Sue L. Robinson. Brown’s ruling came after a more than yearlong probe into allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against the quarterback.
Former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey will hear the NFL’s appeal. Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam said Tuesday, “we’ll respect and honor the process,” of Harvey’s final ruling, per The Washington Post‘s Mark Maske.
The league filed its appeal Wednesday, two days after the NFL and the players association’s mutually appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson, recommended that Watson should be suspended for six games. Robinson said in her ruling the quarterback engaged in conduct that created “a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person, and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.” However, she said Watson’s behavior “does not fall into the category of violent conduct that would require the minimum six-game suspension” that the NFL had established as “by far the most commonly-imposed discipline for domestic or gendered violence and sexual acts.”
The NFL has reportedly asserted throughout the process that they want an “indefinite suspension” that is no less than one year. The league is reportedly looking for the same penalty in their appeal as well as a possible monetary fine.
On Wednesday, Goodell appointed Harvey to hear the appeal. The attorney general is a member of the NFL’s diversity advisory committee, and served on the committee that suspended Ezekiel Elliott for six games under the league’s personal conduct policy in 2017.
Though there is no reported timetable for a decision from Harvey, the NFL said the appeal will be processed on an “expedited” basis. The NFLPA said Friday it has responded to the league’s appeal.
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More than two dozen women have detailed graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The accounts range from Watson allegedly refusing to cover his genitals to the quarterback “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.”
Twenty-five women filed civil lawsuits against Watson starting in March 2021, and only one dropped her case due to privacy concerns, in April ’21. He has now reportedly settled all civil lawsuits but one.
Following Robinson’s recommendation, Jimmy and Dee Haslam issued a statement saying they respected Robinson’s decision.
“We respect Judge Robinson’s decision and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process,” the statement read. “We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.”
The quarterback has denied all allegations against him, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges earlier this spring. A clause built into his five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million mandates he will lose only $55,556 for every game in which he’s suspended this season. This adds up to almost $350,000 if the ruling stands.
The earliest Watson could play is in Week 7 against the Ravens if a longer suspension is not imposed by the appeal. However, according to ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, Cleveland plans on playing Watson in the preseason.
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