The NFL’s appeal to independent arbitrator Judge Sue Robinson’s six-game suspension against Deshaun Watson has been completed. The NFL was reportedly able to reach a settlement with Watson that would see the Browns quarterback suspended for 11 games before the start of the 2022 season and a $5 million fine.
The fine will be combined with donations from the NFL and the Cleveland Browns for a total of $7 million to organizations working to prevent sexual misconduct and assault.
The suspension stems from multiple allegations of sexual misconduct that resulted in Watson filing a civil lawsuit over a 17-month period against 24 different massage therapists who sought massages. The New York Times reported that Watson received massages from at least 66 different massage therapists during that time. The sworn statements of the 24 women who filed a civil lawsuit against Watson detail that he contacted them on Instagram to secure their services, that he showed no interest in their level of experience, qualifications, or even credentials, and that during a scheduled massage, Watson Various acts of sexual misconduct and sexual assault were committed.
The NFL has completed an investigation, and both the league and Watson have had the opportunity to present evidence for Judge Robinson to consider in making his decision. Ultimately, Robinson did conclude that most of the evidence provided by the NFL established that Watson sexually assaulted these women, that his actions caused harm to women affected by his actions, and that his actions damaged the reputation of the National Football League .
Robinson issued a six-game suspension based on the league’s own disciplinary standards for cases involving violence against women or children. Judge Robinson noted that the case was unprecedented in the NFL, and she also noted that Watson showed no remorse for her actions and the effect it had on these women. Robinson noted that she is “bound by a standard of fair and consistent treatment among players in similar situations” and that, in her opinion, six games is the fairest outcome, rather than any similar NFL disciplinary precedent.
The report that led to the decision indicated that the NFL was seeking a suspension of at least one year. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, both parties have the right to appeal the decision within three days of its issuance. The NFL did choose to appeal, and while Roger Goodell could have tried the case himself, he hired former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey to hear it on his behalf. The two parties were able to reach a settlement, so no decision from Harvey was required.
“We’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said after announcing the initial suspension. “[Judge Sue L. Robinson] is very clear on the evidence, whether we should enforce it. There [have been] multiple violations here, and they are very serious and predatory. important issues in a way that solves.”
The 11-game suspension versus the original six-game suspension, it did send a message from the league about Watson strong message of behavior. However, when the Browns traded for Watson, they constructed his $230 million contract for less than $700,000 as his 2022 base salary in anticipation of being suspended. Even with the $5 million fine being assessed as part of that discipline, Watson would hardly feel any financial impact from the suspension.
Notably, attorneys representing Watson’s accusers confirmed to SB Nation that the Browns did not attempt to communicate with any of the women who brought charges against Watson chat. Neither did the Saints, Falcons or Panthers, though they were all actively involved in trade talks before Watson selected the Browns. It is worth mentioning that when Watson’s suspension is over and he is able to return to the game, he will be in time for the The Browns play Week 13 of the 2022 season against his former team, the Houston Texans. All women have settled with the quarterback except one woman who filed a civil lawsuit against Watson. Watson’s former team, the Texans, also settled with 30 women for providing Watson with nondisclosure agreements for women to sign before massaging the quarterback.