Quarterback Deshaun Watson has settled claims from 23 women alleging sexual misconduct. The Houston Texans settled with 30 women for claims against Watson. And the first thought is that he received a slap on the wrist from a six-game suspension considering the comparative penalties.
The accompanying thought remains: Thank goodness the Miami Dolphins didn’t trade for Watson’s scare story. Thanks to all the lucky stars a couple of women kept from settling down with him or he would have been traded to the Dolphins last November, as Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin said.
What do they say about deals you don’t make are the best? Cleveland’s everyday conversation would be our disturbing mess.
This optimistic Dolphins training camp would be dragged into the mire of protests, debates, arguments and general morality wars. It doesn’t even come in the final months before Monday’s ruling, when the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said the six-game suspension “dangerously reflects the flaws in our justice system and sends a serious message to our communities.”
NFL referee, former judge Sue L. Robinson, explained that Watson’s “pattern of behavior was egregious” but that his behavior involved “non-violent sexual conduct”. Hmm. Don’t assaults and harassment count without a hint of violence?
Watson has not been charged with any crime. Let’s point this out in his defense. Robinson also heard more evidence than any of us on the outside. But his decision was based on just four cases brought by the NFL. The fifth case, she said, was dismissed because the NFL failed to interview the woman. Eh?
It’s not just the punishment itself that’s problematic with Watson’s decision, but the staggering inconsistency involving NFL players. Dallas running back Ezekel Elliott and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to name just two, received six-game suspensions for a sexual assault that did not advance to the legal arena.
You can scoff at these penalties further by considering: quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games for getting some air on the footballs; wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended 17 games for betting $1,500 on his own team while injured, and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will serve the same six games this year as Watson after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs .
The suspension process has changed this year. Instead of Commissioner Roger Goodell handing down sentences, there is now the decision of the Independent Adjudicator. The players’ union and the NFL have the right to appeal, with Goodell being the final judge. Maybe he will be there too.
As is, Watson is penalized the same as teammate Myles Garrett for hitting an opponent with a helmet. He has also not been fined a penny, while players who line up with mismatched socks or cleats that do not comply with league protocol are fined.
Cleveland gave Watson a $256 million contract, written to protect his money from any future suspensions. He will lose $345,000, but keep his $45 million signing bonus.
All of that leaves Goodell the option of issuing a fine, keeping the six-game penalty and saying he did everything he could within the system. Of course, if you’re considering a choreographed conspiracy, watch Cleveland’s first six games: at Carolina, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Los Angeles Chargers and New England.
Two games on the road. Two opponents with projected winning records. It’s about as light as you can make a calendar. Chance.
Robinson’s decision imposed a severe penalty on Watson: He must work only with the team’s massage therapists. All of the women alleging his sexual misconduct were independently hired by Watson. A New York Times report said he hired 66 massage therapists over a 17-month period.
The sheer number of Watson allegations is the story here at a time when the NFL is trying to polish its image with women for business reasons. There is a lot to tweak.
Each team came close to some sort of sexual or domestic assault. Tyreek Hill, for example, said the other day that he shouldn’t have been a fifth-round pick. The reason, according to NFL insiders, was partly down to a national issue.
The NFL now has three days to appeal Watson’s decision and send it back to Goodell. Maybe it happens. As it stands, Watson is the face of the Browns after six games, which means it’s all set for his Nov. 13 game against the Dolphins team lucky not to have him.