Arbitrator recommends 6-game suspension for Brown’s QB Watson

by mcardinal

Rob Maaddi, FISM News



The NFL’s disciplinary officer has determined that Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Deshaun Watson should serve a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by more than 20 women in Texas.

Retired federal judge Sue Robinson released the decision on Monday morning, per several media reports, after deliberating for a month following a three-day hearing in Delaware in late June.

Watson was accused by 24 women of women alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage therapy appointments in 2020 and 2021 when he was a member of the Houston Texans. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints brought by 10 of the women, and 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits have been settled.

But the NFL, as an employer, has the right to discipline players for conduct detrimental to the league. Previously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the authority to impose discipline, but the league and the union negotiated in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement that a disciplinary officer would now hear these cases. However, Goodell or a person he designates would issue a final ruling if either side appeals Robinson’s decision.

The NFLPA already stated it would accept the ruling.  

“First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former Federal Judge — appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL — held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative documents and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially,” the union said in a statement. “Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.”

The league, which argued for a suspension of at least one year, has three days to choose whether to appeal.

Watson only loses $345,000 if the suspension stands because his base salary this season is $1.035 million. The Browns gave him a fully guaranteed $230 million, five-year contract, including a $45 million signing bonus in March, following a trade from the Texans.

Watson will be allowed to practice and play in exhibition games before his suspension begins the first week of the regular season. Per the CBA, he can return to practice with the Browns in Week 4 and would be eligible to play on Oct. 23 when the Browns visit the Baltimore Ravens.

Watson was a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in four seasons with the Houston Texans but didn’t play in 2021 while waiting for a trade. 

Watson denied all wrongdoing and insisted any sexual activity with three of the women in the lawsuits was consensual. 

“This case started because one woman had the fortitude to step forward and make her voice heard,” said attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women in the civil lawsuit. “Her courage inspired many others with the same experience. None of this saga would have occurred without that one brave voice. One person can make a difference. 

“I have been asked repeatedly about my thoughts in regard to the NFL’s proceeding with Deshaun Watson. Although some of my clients do have strong feelings in that regard, I have nothing meaningful to say about that process. I’ve said in the beginning that the civil process and the NFL’s disciplinary process are very different. My role was to advance the cause of my clients, in civil court—nothing more. I’ve done that. I am extremely proud of these women and our legal team’s efforts. The settlements are confidential. I won’t comment further on them.”