Deshaun Watson has officially been suspended from the NFL for six games, but the league is pushing for more. Does the ex-Texans quarterback have a chance to see the field this season, or will the league send a message through his punishment?
The story that’s been enveloping the NFL for what feels like an eternity: Deshaun Watson. After the former Texans quarterback had more than 20 sexual misconduct cases filed against him, many have been waiting for the official decision from the league on how long he would be suspended. Recently, Judge Sue L. Robinson handed down a verdict that would suspend Watson for the first six games of the season, without an additional fine. However, the league was pushing for a season-long suspension and has started the appeal process to extend Watson’s sentence.
Watson Has Been In Trouble Since Leaving The Texans
When Deshaun Watson forced himself off Texans and was traded to the Browns, there was an impending sense that his first potential season would be derailed by his legal troubles. With multiple accusations levied against him by massage therapists for indecent conduct, it was always part of the Browns’ assumption that Watson would spend time off the field.
This was further proven by the structure of the fully guaranteed contract that the former Texans quarterback received, which structured his pay around the ubiquitous first year. In doing so, they have essentially guaranteed that Watson won’t lose money if he gets suspended without pay for a full season. The contract gives Deshaun Watson a base salary of only $690,000 through the 2022 season while awarding him $46,000,000 every other season on his contract (you can see the full details here).
The Former Texans Quarterback Goes Head To Head With The NFL In Court
After a drawn-out period of hearings and debate, the judge assigned to the case, Sue L. Robinson, handed out her final decision. It was required that she release the statement in writing, in which she outlined several interesting items.
Firstly, she came to the conclusion that the former Texan had violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy in at least three ways. This led her to levy a six-game suspension against Watson and mandate that all future massages be administered with club oversight. This decision came with the surprising exclusion of a fine, even after addressing items harmful to Watson’s case.
With respect to what the appropriate discipline should be, I note that there are aggravating factors applicable to Mr. Watson, that is, his lack of expressed remorse and his tardy notice to the NFL of the first-filed lawsuit.Judge Sue L. Robinson
Second, she referenced previous league cases in her decision, citing them as a partial reason for what many consider to be a light sentence for the QB. Distinctly, she cited that the suspension she recommended is “the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual assault”. Oddly, she immediately follows that statement by outlining that Watson’s pattern of behavior is by far the most “egregious” that the league has ever seen.
Third, she took time out of her verdict to chide the NFL in a rather blatant way. Judge Robinson noted very specifically that the league has a history of reacting to matters only after public outcry and not in a proactive fashion. She also commented that the league “may be a ‘forward-facing’ organization, but it is not necessarily a forward-looking one”. The main thrust of her argument was centered on the fact that the league shouldn’t look to make an example out of a player without fair notice toward policy changes and punishment.
The NFL Now Has Decision To Make With Watson
At the beginning of the process, the league was pushing for an indefinite suspension with a minimum of one year’s loss of playing time. While they publicly stated that they respect and appreciate the ruling of Judge Robinson, many in league circles believed that they would pursue an appeal to send the case up to league commissioner, Roger Goodell. On Wednesday afternoon, they did just that.
It remains to be seen how the situation will continue to unfold, but it seems almost certain that the case will drag on to the start of the season. Will the superstar QB play a snap for the Browns this season, or is he doomed to watch a talented roster succeed or fail under the reigns of another quarterback? That currently resided in the hands of league commissioner, Roger Goodell, and we should learn much more in the coming days.
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