NFL to appeal Judge Robinson’s 6-game suspension for Watson

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NFL appeals Watson ruling
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson prepares to throw a pass during the NFL football team’s training camp, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Nick Cammett)

The NFL is not ready to let Deshaun Watson off the hook just yet.

Two days after an independent arbitrator gave a ruling of a six-game suspension to the Browns quarterback, the league has found that the ruling is not sufficient punishment. 

According to reports, the NFL will appeal Judge Robinson’s six-game suspension.

As part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2020, a disciplinary appeal goes straight to the desk of Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell can then decide who hears the appeal. 

Judge Robinson gave a six-game suspension ruling, even though she found sufficient evidence of sexual misconduct from Watson as a part of 24 women accusing the quarterback of misconduct during massages. 

What does it mean for the NFL?

Objectively, this is the most ardent response from the league in regards to discipline for sexual misconduct. 

After years of seemingly missing on discipline when players were accused of sexual assault, the NFL looks to be making a far bigger statement in regards to Watson’s case. 

Ben Roethlisberger, the former quarterback of the Steelers, was suspended for six games (ended up being four by appeal) in 2010 for two alleged sexual assault allegations. Ray Rice received an indefinite suspension for a video that showed a violent altercation with his wife in an elevator. 

Watson receiving six games is the exact number that Roethlisberger originally got, even though the Browns quarterback had almost 12x the number of accusers. 

What does it mean for the NFLPA?

The NFLPA will, most assuredly file an injunction and take the NFL to court over a ruling like this. The player’s association exists to protect players, no matter the issue in regards to league discipline. 

So while the NFL can decide on an appropriate punishment and appeal, the NFLPA can also file an injunction and take the league to federal court over the ruling. 

The question will ultimately be if any court would want to take a case in which an athlete is accused by over 20 women of sexual assault. 

With this Watson ruling most likely coming down to the federal court, it means the location for a trial will be important. If an appeals court in New York hears the case, the NFL has a long-standing tradition of winning. 

It’s important to note, that Watson has not been criminally charged, and has settled with all but one accuser. 

However, as part of the personal conduct policy, the league can suspend a player for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game.”

What does it mean for Watson?

In the end, there are only a few pieces of information to keep in mind when discussing the Watson case. 

The NFL appealing a decision made by an independent arbitrator means that Watson CAN be suspended for longer than six games.

That also means, with the NFLPA almost assuredly filing an injunction, it allows Watson to play immediately. Meaning Watson, after 24 sexual assault allegations, will most likely be playing Week One for the Cleveland Browns. 

While the court of public opinion would not be too happy about that, it’s important to also note that players have appealed NFL discipline rulings, played throughout, and were ultimately suspended. 

Regardless of what happens shortly, it’s clear that the Deshaun Watson case is far from over. 

In ways, it’s only just beginning. 

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