Deshaun Watson's Hearing Will Decide His Fate
By: Ethan Tu
NFL player Deshaun Watson was accused of sexual misconduct in 24 lawsuits filed by women and attended a hearing on Tuesday that will decide his disciplinary punishment.
Following the revised personal conduct policy, which was completed in 2020, the NFL and NFL Players Association jointly appointed former U.S district judge Sue L. Robinson to be the disciplinary officer for the NFL. Previously, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell oversaw making the initial disciplinary ruling and to resolve any appeal. Watson’s case is the first under the new system.
After Robinson’s decision, an appeal is expected to occur. The appeal would be handled by Goodell or someone he designates, and that ruling will be final.
The league has been investigating Watson’s case for the past 18 months and has interviewed several of the plaintiffs and Watson. They are looking for an indefinite suspension of at least one year for Watson. The NFL Players Association disagrees with the NFL’s harsh punishment and is seeking a few weeks suspension or none at all.
The NFL hopes that the entire case will be resolved before the start of training camp, which is on July 27. There is no timeline for Robinson’s decision though, and a source said that Robinson will likely “take her time.”
It's important to note that Watson has not been charged with a crime yet and has denied all the allegations against him. His attorney also claimed that he reached settlements in 20 of the 24 active lawsuits against him. The NFL said the settlements would have “no impact” on the league’s disciplinary process.
In the past, the NFL has dealt with cases regarding owners of teams and did not punish them. According to the Washington Post, the NFL decided “not to suspend owners Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys for incidents involving them and their teams.” This was before the revised personal conduct policy with Robinson as the disciplinary officer, and there will be changes to how she approaches Watsons case.
Watson has signed a five-year contract with the Cleveland Browns including a base salary of $1.035 million for the 2022 season. If Watson is suspended for the year, he would lose his salary and possibly be charged an additional fine.