The Deshaun Watson investigation has not been completed yet by the NFL, and no punishment has been currently handed down.
But it appears that the NFLPA is ready to vigorously defend the controversial quarterback, no matter what punishment is handed down.
According to reports, the Players Association is expecting one of the largest suspensions for a player levied against Watson following two more women coming forward to accuse the Browns quarterback of sexual assault.
By law, the NFLPA will be ready to defend Watson’s case for a smaller penalty.
The report later goes on to say that the PA will compare Watson’s actions to those of NFL Owners who have dealt with controversy off the field. The report highlights Dan Snyder of the Commanders, Robert Kraft of the Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Cowboys.
To the NFLPA, the league giving a strong punishment to Watson is not proportional to the punishment those owners were given.
NFL’s Ownership Issues
There is a line within the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy that states “Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.”
Robert Kraft was originally charged with “soliciting another to commit prostitution” back in 2019 but the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence. Jerry Jones on the other hand reportedly made a $2.4 million settlement due to a voyeurism allegation against a former executive.
Dan Snyder on the other hand, is currently being under investigation by both Congress and the independent NFL appointee after allegations of sexual harassment, assault and fraud have been thrown around over the last few years.
This is a major step for the NFLPA for a number of reasons. First, under the new “disciplinary officer” that was appointed by the league and PA, commissioner Roger Goodell is not the “judge, jury and executioner” of player punishments as he had been in the past.
The independent officer, retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, could allow the NFLPA to see the league’s findings on all three cases that could inevitably make the Snyder investigation public. As of this time, the league has not announced that they will make the findings of the Snyder investigation public.
It could also lead to a lighter suspension for Watson.
While the Player’s Association continues to say that the NFL has not correctly adhered to the personal conduct policy in regards to their owners, the league does have evidence to deny that claim.
Back in 2014, Colts owner, Jim Irsay was suspended six games and fined $500,000 after he was charged with a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated.
Kraft’s charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence, while there were no charges filed against Jerry Jones.
When a suspension is handed down, it could then be appealed by Watson and the PA which would allow him to actually start the season for the Browns even with the civil charges that have been brought forward.
Past Player Precedent
There is precedent of the league suspending players over violations of the personal conduct policy. Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger was initially suspended six games for two allegations of sexual assault. Ravens running-back, Ray Rice never played a down of football again for the Ravens after video was released of him attacking his then-fiancée in an elevator.
For Watson, while the NFLPA is ready to defend him in this case, the accusations against him are unprecedented to what the league has seen in the past.
There are not two women accusing him in two different years, there are now 26 women who have joined a lawsuit against him. The New York Times latest report in that the quarterback met with 66 women in a 17 month period is also extremely unprecedented.
While Watson and the Players Association can argue about NFL owners not getting as strong a punishment as he has, the accusations levied against the signal-caller is something that the league has not seen before.
The league will eventually come down with a suspension on Watson, and it may be the strongest we have ever seen in league history, but it appears that the NFLPA is ready to defend him.
The question will be how big of a can of worms will be opened up if the Players Association uses other owners as part of their defense.
Watson and his legal team have denied the latest accusations. As early as this week, Watson spoke to reporters saying “I’ve been honest and I’ve truthful with my stance, I never forced anyone, I never assaulted anyone.”
Still, a player does not have to be charged of anything to be suspended under the Personal Conduct Policy of the league.
Any action made that the league feels is done that hurts the integrity of the sport can be seen as a violation under the policy.
For more on the Deshaun Watson case, turn to AMNY.com