NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Must Increase Deshaun Watson’s Suspension Length – The Denver Post

Roger Goodell has to fix this.

The NFL commissioner must remove Deshaun Watson from a football field in 2022.

Judge Sue L. Robinson’s recommendation of a six-game suspension announced Monday would return the Cleveland Browns quarterback to a football field by October.

This is unacceptable.

Robinson, a neutral arbitrator jointly selected and paid by the league and players’ association, acknowledged Watson’s “expressed lack of remorse” in his 16-page ruling on his alleged sexual assaults on massage therapists. A total of 24 women have filed civil lawsuits against the former Houston Texans QB.

The judge said “Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any previously reviewed by the NFL.

She even ruled that Watson violated three provisions of the personal conduct policy by engaging in: sexual assault, conduct that poses a real danger to the safety and well-being of people, and conduct that impairs or endangers jeopardize the integrity of the NFL.

Yet somehow Robinson used precedent in the NFL’s enforcement of “non-violent sexual assault” to keep Watson’s suspension at a meager six games.

“Previous cases involving non-violent sexual assault have resulted in much less severe discipline than what the NFL is offering here, with the most severe penalty being a 3-game suspension for a player who had previously been cautioned for his conduct,” said wrote Robinson.

“While it may be entirely appropriate to discipline players more harshly for non-violent sexual behavior,” the judge continued, “I do not think it is appropriate to do so without notice of the extraordinary change that this position bodes well for the NFL and its players.”

First of all, let’s be very clear: “Nonviolent sexual assault” is the kind of tortured oxymoron that you can only find in an American legal journal or in the rules of the NFL.

But beyond this crime against language, it is dishonest and wrong to acknowledge the unprecedented nature of Watson’s conduct and then hide behind precedent to avoid unprecedented punishment.

This is the same kind of logic employed by our justice system, which so often fails victims of sexual assault, and which Robinson represented as a judge. It gives no credibility to the NFL to employ a former judge in such cases when the system that judge came from is so blatantly flawed when it comes to sexual assault cases.

The NFL Players Union obviously won’t appeal the decision and has pledged not to until Robinson’s public announcement.

But the NFL has three business days to appeal, and if the league does, Goodell would have the authority to issue a “full, final, and complete disposition of the dispute.”

In other words, Goodell can still play judge and jury here.

And while the commissioner’s mishandling of Ray Rice’s domestic violence case will always be a stain on his record and that of the league, he has an opportunity here to set a strong precedent for Watson’s unprecedented behavior. .

A statement released by the NFL following Robinson’s decision left the door open for a potential appeal.

“We thank Judge Sue L. Robinson, the Independent Disciplinary Officer, for her review of the voluminous record and her attentiveness during a three-day hearing that resulted in her finding multiple violations of the Personal Conduct Policy of the Court. NFL by Deshaun Watson,” NFL spokesman Brian said. McCarthy said in the statement. “We appreciate Judge Robinson’s diligence and professionalism throughout this process.

“Consistent with the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL or NFLPA on Watson’s behalf may appeal the decision within three days,” the statement added. “In light of his findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a decision on next steps.”

Robinson’s six-game suspension rang incredibly hollow on Monday as she simultaneously recommended Watson “limit his massage therapy to club-directed sessions and club-approved massage therapists for the duration of his career”.

Here, the judge admitted that Watson “engaged in sexual assault” and essentially warned that he could not be trusted in similar situations in the future, but let him resume his NFL career anyway. in a short time.

Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin memorably told a Houston radio station in early June that a “happy ending” is not a crime – an admission of Watson’s alleged behavior there never was, even though Hardin didn’t say so in a court of law.

Instead, Robinson noted the NFLPA’s assertion that it would not be “fair and consistent” to punish Watson harshly, but “not even charge various team owners who have been accused of similar or worse conduct.” “.

This apparent allusion to the alleged solicitation of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in 2019 at a Florida massage parlor seemed to equate consensual sex work – for which four defendants working at Orchids of Asia faced charges. felony charges – to sexual assault. This kind of logic betrays what Hardin really thinks of his client’s alleged crimes: he doesn’t consider consent to be relevant.

Watson had already settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits against him before this week. Then plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee announced that three of the remaining four civil cases had been resolved on Monday. Now Robinson’s decision nearly sweeps away Watson’s transgressions in the backsight.

The judge noted that although Watson did not play in the 2021 season, Goodell “refused to place him on administrative leave under which any missed games would be credited with any suspensions subsequently imposed.”

So it’s possible Goodell will accept Robinson’s six-game decision and simply add a hefty fine, acknowledging that Watson has already missed a full year of games.

However, everyone would see clearly in this political compromise. The NFL would lose more credibility by once again limiting the welfare and safety of women to a footnote.

The NFL has already recommended that Watson be suspended for at least the entire 2022 NFL regular and playoff season. Robinson disagreed. But Goodell has the last word.

It’s time he used it.


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