NFL suspends Deshaun Watson for 6 games after allegations of sexual abuse of 24 women

The NFL suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games on Monday for violating the league’s personal conduct policies following allegations of sexual abuse filed against him by 24 women, in what a disciplinary judge described as a conduct “more egregious than what the NFL had previously reviewed.”

Watson, who played four seasons with Houston before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by massage therapists alleging sexual harassment and dating assault in 2020 and 2021.

The NFL has three days to appeal the decision of retired judge Sue L. Robinson, who is in charge of issuing penalties.

“Although this is the most significant penalty imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct was more egregious than the NFL had previously reviewed,” Robinson wrote in the conclusion of his 16-page report.

NFL suspends Deshaun Watson for 6 games after allegations of

Although fines and suspensions are the only type of penalty contemplated in the collective agreement, Robinson ordered that as a condition of reinstatement that Watson “limit his massage therapy to sessions organized by the club and with club masseuses for the remainder of his career.” .

The NFL Players Association had already indicated that it would accept the ruling.

If either party appeals, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee will make the decision, as negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement. The players’ union (NFLPA) could go to federal court.

The league sought an indefinite suspension of at least a year and a minimum fine of $5 million for the 26-year-old Watson during a three-day hearing before Robinson in June.

Watson will be able to continue training and play in exhibition games before he begins serving his suspension in the first week of the regular season. He would rejoin practices in Week 4 and could make his debut Oct. 23 when the Browns visit Baltimore.

Watson, who signed a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract, will lose just $345,000 if the suspension is upheld as his base salary this season is just over $1 million. The $45 million signing bonus will not be affected by the suspension.

In a statement, the league thanked Robinson for reviewing a “voluminous file … that led to multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy by Deshaun Watson.”

“Based on the findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s six-game suspension and will make a determination on the next passes,” the statement added.

After learning the ruling was imminent, the NFLPA released a joint statement with Watson late Sunday saying they would not appeal Robinson’s ruling and urging the league to do the same.

“Every player, owner, partner or investor deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be affected by the whim of the league,” the NFLPA said in a statement.

While awaiting the ruling, Watson has been training with the Browns. He played most of the snaps with the first-team offense, a role he would turn over to backup Jacoby Brissett while he is sidelined.

Although the NFL called for severe punishment, the union argued that Watson should not be punished, since he has not been found guilty of any crime.

Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson after complaints were filed by 10 of the women.

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This was the first case handled by Robinson, a former district judge who was appointed by the NFL and the union to handle penalties, something Goodell previously decided.

A three-time Pro Bowler with the Texans, Watson jeopardized his career over allegations that he acted inappropriately with women during social media messaging sessions. He missed the 2021 season after demanding a trade before the allegations surfaced.

In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of baring their private parts, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will. One of the women reported that Watson had forced her to perform oral sex on her.

Watson denies any wrongdoing and insists all sexual activity with three of the women was consensual. She publicly insisted that her goal was to clear her name before entering into confidential financial settlements with 20 of the women on June 21.

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NFL suspends Deshaun Watson for 6 games after allegations of sexual abuse of 24 women