As Deshaun Watson continues to maintain his innocence and seeks to restore his image, the Cleveland Browns and soccer fans around the world await the NFL to determine the appropriate sentence for the star’s quarterback accused of sexual misconduct by 24. women.
A person familiar with the NFL investigation told The Associated Press that a decision was expected before the camps began. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as the investigation conducted by Lisa Friel and Todd Jones is still ongoing.
When completed, former judge Sue Robinson, who has been jointly appointed by the NFL and its players association, will look into the case and decide whether Watson has violated the league’s personal conduct policy and what penalty should be imposed.
It will be Robinson’s first decision since he was hired as discipline prefect under the most recent collective bargaining agreement reached in March 2020. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell previously had the authority to suspend players.
The league and the union can advise on the duration of a potential suspension. If the union or league appeals to Robinson’s decision, Goodell or someone designated by him “will make a written decision which will be final and complete the case,” according to article 46 of the collective agreement.
Watson faces no criminal charges after two Texas grand juries refused to press charges. However, he is the target of civil lawsuits filed by 24 massage therapists who accuse him of sexual assault and harassment during private sessions while playing for the Houston Texans.
On Tuesday, Watson repeated that he was innocent.
“I’ve never attacked anyone,” Watson said. I have never harassed anyone or disrespected anyone. I’ve never forced anyone to do anything. “
In the past, the NFL has punished several players for violating its personal conduct policy even though they were not charged with criminal offenses.
In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games after being accused of sexual assault by two women. The case never went to court and did not challenge the NFL suspension.
The league vowed to be tougher on players accused of violence against women following the Ray Rice case in 2014. The running back was initially suspended for two games following an altercation with his future wife in the elevator. a hotel. After the disturbing footage surfaced online, Rice was indefinitely suspended from the league. Rice won his roll call and his status was restored two months later, but he never played in the NFL again.
In all, more than 20 players have been suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy since 2014.
The league is aware of public opinion in Watson’s case. A person familiar with the league’s internal discussions told the AP that the NFL has learned from past mistakes regarding its leniency in violence against women. The charges against Watson are serious enough to be punished.
However, Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd, said the league cannot punish Watson simply because of popular opinion. The disciplinary process should make it possible to avoid any reactionary decision.
“Facts and information must be the basis for deciding whether the behavior is worthwhile for the player,” said Ganis. Deshaun Watson’s problem is not popular opinion, but whether he made these moves, which could be considered NFL misconduct. “
Watson may at least need to sign up for a support program. He raised a lot of eyebrows when he said he “has no regrets” on March 25, when he was first publicly introduced as a member of the Browns. The latter acquired his services from the Texans and granted him a fully guaranteed contract for five seasons and $ 230 million despite his legal problems.
Watson admitted that the comment may have had a negative impact.
“I have no regrets about the impact on the community and that includes my family and this organization,” he said. This includes my teammates, who have to answer all of these questions. This includes Cleveland Browns fans.
“This includes men and women all over the world. I’m sorry for the impact this has had on so many people. “
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all the women who have sued Watson, would like to feel more remorse in Watson’s comments.
“I think it would be appropriate to see Deshaun Watson express regret or remorse for the way he treated these women, some who have sued him and others who have not yet,” Buzbee said in a statement. Participating in an aid program will be one way to demonstrate this. We have nothing more to say about it. “