Deshaun Watson’s Suspension Is a Joke
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Deshaun Watson’s Suspension Is a Joke

Dozens of sexual misconduct claims against the Cleveland Browns QB resulted in a mere six-game punishment. How is this okay?

Considering all of the accusations leveled against him, Deshaun Watson ought to be happy the despicable behavior he’s been accused of engaging in has resulted in only a six-game suspension.

No one else should be.

On Monday, the Cleveland Browns quarterback accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage treatments was suspended for six games without pay for multiple violations of the National Football League’s personal conduct policy.

Additionally, as a condition of his reinstatement, Watson was directed to use only club-approved massage therapists in club-directed sessions for the rest of his career.

However, Watson was not fined and won’t be required to undergo counseling.

According to a 16-page report released by Sue L. Robinson, the retired federal judge jointly appointed by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association, Watson violated the policy’s provisions by engaging in unwanted sexual contact with another person as well as endangering the safety and well-being of another person. Robinson reportedly described Watson’s conduct as “predatory” and egregious” and noted that he hadn’t expressed remorse for his actions.

Still, she rejected the NFL’s recommendation that Watson be suspended for the entire 2022 season, saying she didn't believe that Watson's behavior qualified as “violent,” but did describe his conduct as “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”

The NFL and NFLPA have three business days to submit a written appeal, but on Sunday evening, the NFLPA and Watson issued a statement saying that they would not appeal the ruling and called on the league not to either.

According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, should the league appeal Robinson's ruling of a six-game suspension, Watson and the NFLPA would file a lawsuit.

“I'm told if the NFL does appeal this, that Deshaun Watson's side will be filing suit against them to question the authority of [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell to do so," Darlington said on ESPN's Get Up on Tuesday. “If that were to happen, we're talking about injunctions, all sorts of legal processes that ultimately could delay this suspension. So there's a bunch of complicated things out there. I'm not saying he wins or loses the case, but there's a bunch of scenarios right now that puts the Cleveland Browns when they're assessing what's going to happen with their quarterback into play in many different scenarios.”

I’m sure the Cleveland Browns are.

Dee and Jimmy Haslam, owners of the Browns, said in a statement released on Monday that they respected Robinson’s decision and would “continue to support” Watson.

They knew who Deshaun Watson was. They just didn’t care. What happened to those women has nothing to do with their bottom line.

"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 Haslam’s wrote. “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."

When people hand a man accused of sexual misconduct by at least 24 women a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract to become their franchise quarterback, it makes clear just how much empathy they have for the “many individuals triggered throughout this process.”

In fact, in anticipation of Watson facing some type of suspension in the 2022 season, his contract was structured to offset most of his $46 million compensation for this year into a signing bonus. The suspension, paltry as it is, will see Watson miss only a portion of his approximately $1 million base salary.

They knew who Deshaun Watson was. They just didn’t care. What happened to those women has nothing to do with their bottom line.

That's why organizations like the National Organization of Women say the ruling is "unacceptable, insulting, and dangerous.” Separately, they told TMZ Sports that it clearly shows “money talks, and women are unheard.”

“The NFL has had a violence against women problem for years—and everyone knows it," NOW explained.

The NFL, which has rightfully been challenged about its inconsistency disciplining players for off-field behavior, used Watson’s case as the first major test of a new collectively bargained protocol adopted in March 2020. So technically, they did advocate for a much stronger position and were overruled.

On the other hand, I’m inclined to agree with Will Leitch’s assessment: “The NFL is attempting to get some distance from these sorts of punishments. It has no stomach for moral arbitration.” If the league did, Watson would be off the field for a lot longer than it looks like he will be.

I understand that Watson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and grand juries in two Texas counties declined to charge him criminally. But if you are familiar with the justice system’s horrible success with convicting sexual predators, you have no reason to believe the accused or the justice system that enables men like him.

If Watson were so innocent, he has a funny way of showing it. He has reached settlements with all but one of the 24 women who filed civil lawsuits against him.

I invite people to read some of the accusers’ complaints in their words.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of their claims. If anything, revisiting them makes it all the more apparent that Watson deserves more than just a six-game suspension. The fact that he is threatening to sue the NFL potentially appealing Robinson’s decision speaks to his entitlement. That slap on the wrist isn’t good enough?

Likewise, the players’ union siding with him speaks to the broader issue of far too many athletes having a cavalier attitude about the allegations of abuse leveled against many of their peers in recent years.

A six-game suspension suggests the new system, like the old, is already in dire need of new direction. Unfortunately, we can’t even depend on fans to ask better of these men and the league. On Monday, Watson was apparently greeted by cheers from fans as he took the practice field.

It’s not at all surprising, but not being shocked doesn’t make it any more demoralizing. All I can say is I’m sorry to the women who were insulted by this ruling. As for Watson, even if he isn’t required to seek counseling, I suggest he go find help and learn the meaning of consent and how to keep his hands to himself.