Deshaun Watson, the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, was given a six-game suspension on Monday after being accused of misbehaving by two dozen women in Texas while receiving massages. Watson’s conduct was “more extreme than any previously examined behavior,” according to an NFL disciplinary officer.
For violating the league’s personal conduct policy, the NFL asked for an indefinite suspension of at least a year. However, the sanction issued by the league’s disciplinary officer, former federal judge Sue L.Robinson, was far less severe. Before being dealt to Cleveland in March, Watson played for Houston for four seasons. Recently, 23 of 24 cases brought by women alleging molestation and physical abuse during procedures in 2020 and 2021 were settled.
Three days are given to the NFL to file an appeal.
Watson’s pattern of behavior is more egregious than any previously examined by the NFL, Robinson said in the end of her 16-page report, “even if this is the most significant sentence ever imposed on an NFL player for claims of nonviolent activity.”
Robinson stipulated that Watson must “restrict his massage therapy to Club-directed sessions and Club-approved massage therapists” for the remainder of his career, even though the only sanctions in the collective bargaining agreement are a fine or suspension.
She said that Watson has to follow the personal conduct standard and not have “any negative engagement with police enforcement.”
The NFL Players Association has declared that it will follow Robinson’s decision. According to the CBA, if either party appeals, the decision will be made by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates. The union could then attempt to appeal that decision in federal court.
During a three-day hearing before Robinson in June, the league had pushed for a suspension of at least a year and the $5 million fine for the 26-year-old Watson, according to two people familiar with the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the hearing wasn’t open to the public.
Based on the evidence of four of the 12 women who were questioned by league investigators and 37 additional third parties, the NFL released a 215-page report. Robinson concluded that Watson broke three rules of the personal conduct policy: molestation; conduct posing a real risk to the safety and welfare of another person; and conduct undermining or jeopardizing the integrity of the NFL, based on the league’s burden of proof.