NFL: All eyes are on Deshaun Watson and the upcoming NFL decision

As Deshaun Watson continues to maintain his innocence and seek to restore his image, the Cleveland Browns and football fans around the world are waiting for the NFL to determine the appropriate punishment for the star quarterback accused by 24 women of sexual misconduct.

A person with knowledge of the NFL investigation told The Associated Press that a decision is expected before camps begin. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as the investigation led by Lisa Friel and Todd Jones is ongoing.

When it is completed, former judge Sue Robinson, appointed jointly by the NFL and its players’ association, will review the case and decide whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct guidelines and what sanction should be imposed.

It will be Robinson’s first decision since he was hired as disciplinary prefect under the last collective bargaining agreement reached in March 2020. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell previously had the power to suspend players.

The league and association may recommend the length of any suspension. If the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or someone he designates will “make a written decision that will be final and close the case,” under Article 46 of the collective agreement.

Watson will not be charged after two Texas grand juries declined to bring charges. However, he is the target of civil lawsuits filed by 24 massage therapists alleging him of sexual assault and harassment during private sessions while playing for the Houston Texans.

On Tuesday, Watson reiterated that he was innocent.

“I’ve never attacked anyone,” Watson said. I have never harassed or treated anyone with disrespect. I have never forced anyone to do anything. »

In the past, the NFL has fined several players for violating its personal conduct policy even though they were not charged with criminal offenses.

In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger was banned for six games after two women accused him of sexual assault. The case never made it to trial and he did not challenge the NFL’s suspension.

The league has promised to crack down on players accused of violence against women following the Ray Rice case in 2014. The running back was initially suspended for two games after an altercation with his wife-to-be in a hotel elevator. After the disturbing video footage surfaced online, Rice was banned indefinitely by the league. Rice won his appeal and his status was restored two months later, but he never played in the NFL again.

In total, more than 20 players have been suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy since 2014.

The League is aware of public opinion in the Watson case. A person with knowledge of the league’s internal discussions told the AP that the NFL has learned from past mistakes in its leniency in cases of violence against women. The allegations against Watson are serious enough to punish him.

However, Marc Ganis, chairman of consultancy Sportscorp Ltd, said the league cannot penalize Watson simply because of public opinion. The disciplinary procedure should make it possible to avoid any reactionary decision.

“Facts and information must be the basis for determining whether the behavior is worth the penalty for the player,” Ganis said. Deshaun Watson’s problem isn’t public opinion, but whether he made those moves that could be considered wrongdoing by the NFL. »

Watson may need to sign up for at least one utility. He raised many eyebrows when he said he had “no regrets” on March 25 when he was first publicly introduced as a member of the Browns. The latter acquired his services from the Texans and, despite his legal woes, awarded him a five-season, $230 million, fully guaranteed contract.

Watson acknowledged that comment could have had negative repercussions.

“I regret the impact on the community, and that includes my family and this organization,” he said. This includes my teammates who have to answer all these questions. That includes fans of the Cleveland Browns.

“That includes men and women all over the world. I regret the impact this has had on so many people. »

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all women suing Watson, wants more remorse in Watson’s comments.

“I think it would be appropriate for Deshaun Watson to express his regret or remorse for the way he has treated these women, some of whom are suing him and others who have not yet done so,” Buzbee said in a statement. Participating in a service program is one way to demonstrate this. We have nothing more to say about that. »

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