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Deshaun Watson suspended 6 games: What happens now for league after controversial ruling?

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Watson suspended six games
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson stands on the field during an NFL football practice at the team’s training facility Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Judge Sue Robinson took multiple weeks to make a decision on an appropriate punishment for Deshaun Watson. 

A decision has finally been made. 

Judge Robinson has announced that quarterback Deshaun Watson will be suspended for the first six games of the NFL season. There are no additional fines that have been levied on Watson as well according to reports. 

The ruling comes after multiple months of the Watson controversy spilling over most of the NFL’s headlines. Watson was initially accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women, with two of them going on HBO Sports with Bryant Gumbel. 

Watson and his legal team then settled with 20 of the 24 women while the NFL had been submitting their findings to the independent arbitrator in Robinson. Watson’s legal team then settled with three more cases and now only one accuser now remains. 

As part of the NFL and NFLPA’s CBA Agreement in 2020, all disciplinary announcements were to be presented by an independent arbitrator that the league and player’s association approved. 

Watson was traded to the Cleveland Browns back in March and signed a lucrative $230 million, fully guaranteed contract. While he sits his suspension, quarterback Jacoby Brissett will be expected to start the season for the Browns. 

The Browns quarterback is expected to make his debut now in week seven when Cleveland takes on Baltimore. 

How does this suspension stack up to prior precedent?

This is not the first or last personal conduct policy violation by a quarterback. In the early 2010’s, Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games for violating the personal conduct policy after two women accused the quarterback of sexual assault. 

Then there was Ezekiel Elliott’s six game suspension in 2016 that was caused by his ex-girlfriend alleging the running back sexually assaulted her. 

Neither Roethlisberger or Elliott received criminal charges like Watson. 

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens runningback from 2008-2013, was arrested after a video of him assaulting his wife went viral. Rice received an indefinite suspension and did not play again. 

The length of Watson’s suspension is noteworthy as it equals the time of both Big Ben, and Elliott. While both players had 1-2 women speak out and accuse them of sexual misconduct, Watson at one point, had 24 acussers filing civil suits against him. 

Where does the NFL go from here on Watson?

The league is now in a difficult situation. The Watson punishment is significantly less than what they were looking for (the league had reportedly been looking for a year suspension).

As an independent arbitrator, Robinson was appointed by the league and players association. The league does have the power to appeal, and the appeal would go directly to Roger Goodell’s desk, but a dangerous precedent could be set with that.

If the league appeals the first ruling from an independent arbitrator, it could make the entire process moot and destroy their new disciplinary process that was approved on by both the league and its players. 

However, a six game suspension for Watson has already been criticized by those around the league for being to lenient during the “Me Too” era. 

Would the league sacrifice the new disciplinary process to score one in the court of pubic opinion? Only time will tell. 

Regardless of the NFL’s next decision regarding the Cleveland Browns quarterback, it appears that one of the league’s biggest controversial storylines of the off-season is quickly coming to a close before the pre-season begins. 

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