Deshaun Watson Receives Six Game Suspension From the NFL
The NFL and NFLPA have three days to appeal the ruling by independent disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who ruled that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. She issued a six-game suspension for the former first-round pick.
The NFL is likely to seek an indefinite ban for Watson, who reached confidential settlements with several women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
What Does It Mean?
After Roger Goodell received backlash for giving Ray Rice just two games, he promised to institute a six-game minimum suspension for players who committed sexual assault or domestic violence. Sadly, the NFL rarely adheres to that baseline. In fact, a look at the history of how the league handles these cases paints a picture that’s more than a little troubling.
The NFL has three days to decide whether it will appeal disciplinary officer Sue Robinson’s decision to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games. If the NFL does appeal, Roger Goodell (or someone he designates) will hear the case and could potentially issue a longer ban.
Robinson ruled that Watson engaged in multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, including sexual misconduct and conduct that poses a danger to others. She also noted that he had shown no remorse or acknowledged wrongdoing. In addition to the six-game ban, Watson is fined an undisclosed amount.
How Does It Affect the Team?
The NFL has the power to suspend players if they’re found to have violated the league’s personal conduct policy, regardless of whether a criminal conviction is ultimately reached. This is particularly true if the player has been found to have committed a non-criminal act that would result in a fine, but not a suspension under criminal law.
The Browns were prepared for Watson’s possible absence this season, signing a host of backup quarterbacks and giving Jacoby Brissett the job to start Week 1. But this is a big blow for any team that loses its starting quarterback.
While the Browns will probably be able to survive without Watson for six games, they’re unlikely to contend for the Super Bowl. The team will have a tough schedule during the first part of Watson’s ban, including matchups with the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns will need to win some of those games if they want to have any chance at reaching the playoffs when Watson returns.
How Does It Affect the Player?
The Cleveland Browns medical staff sprung into action Monday morning when news broke that quarterback Deshaun Watson would serve six games without pay this season. It was the token penalty handed down by a judge to the former Houston Texans star over sexual misconduct accusations from two dozen women, according to reports by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The retired federal judge who presided over the disciplinary case, Sue L. Robinson, cited 32 previous instances of the league’s personal conduct policy to rule that Watson violated it. She also cited the fact that no player accused of non-violent sexual misconduct has been suspended for more than six games.
Robinson’s decision was a blow to the NFL, which had pushed for at least a year suspension for Watson in an effort to stem criticisms that commissioner Roger Goodell has outsized power in determining discipline. The league has three days to appeal the ruling, which Robinson issued Monday.
How Does It Affect the Fans?
In addition to the potential for game manipulation, these types of violations also expose players to greater scrutiny and possible retaliation from fans. That’s why the NFL is stepping up its enforcement efforts, especially since sports betting became legal across the country in 2021.
In failed settlement talks with Watson’s team, the league wanted no less than a full season of suspension and a sizable fine—some reports put it at $8 million. On Monday, disciplinary officer Sue Robinson ruled that the Cleveland Browns quarterback violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and handed him a six-game suspension without pay.
The decision left some fans, including those of the Browns, disappointed and confused. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, for example, released a statement saying that the ruling “could be triggering for survivors of sexual assault.” Robinson’s punishment was significantly lighter than that of former Texans receiver Calvin Ridley, who received a full year for gambling on games.