As Deshaun Watson continues to maintain his innocence and attempts to restore his image, Cleveland Browns and football fans around the world are waiting for the NFL to determine the appropriate punishment for the quarterback accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women.
A person familiar with the NFL investigation told The Associated Press that the decision was expected before the camps began. The person spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity as the investigation led by Lisa Friel and Todd Jones is still ongoing.
When it is completed, former judge Sue Robinson, who is appointed jointly by the NFL and its players’ association, will review the case and decide whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy and the penalty to be imposed.
It would be Robinson’s first decision since he was appointed as a discipline governor under the latest collective bargaining agreement reached in March 2020. Previously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to suspend players.
The Federation and the Federation may recommend the duration of the possible suspension. If the league or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or whomever he designates “will make a written decision that will be final and will complete the case,” according to Section 46 of the collective agreement.
Watson does not face criminal charges after a Texas grand jury dismissed charges. However, he is the target of civil lawsuits filed by 24 massage therapists who accuse him of sexual assault and harassment during private sessions while playing for the Houston Texans.
On Tuesday, Watson reiterated that he is innocent.
“I never used anyone,” Watson said. I did not harass anyone or despise anyone. I didn’t force anyone to do anything. »
In the past, the NFL has sanctioned many players for violating its personal conduct policy even though they have not been charged with criminal offences.
In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six matches after two women accused him of sexual assault. The case did not go to court and he did not appeal the NFL suspension.
The league promised to be tougher with players accused of violence against women in the wake of the Ray Rice case in 2014. Return was initially suspended for two matches after an altercation with his future wife in a hotel elevator. After the disturbing video clip appeared on the Internet, Rice was suspended indefinitely by the league. Rice won his appeal and was reinstated two months later, but he never played again in the NFL.
In all, more than 20 players have been suspended for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy since 2014.
The university is aware of public opinion on the Watson case. A person familiar with the league’s internal discussions told the AP that the NFL has learned from past mistakes in its tolerance of cases of violence against women. The allegations against Watson are harsh enough to punish him.
However, Mark Janis, president of consultancy Sportscorp Ltd, said the league could not penalize Watson just for public opinion. The disciplinary process should allow any retroactive decision to be avoided.
“Facts and information should be the basis for the decision as to whether the behavior merits the player’s penalty,” Janis said. Deshaun Watson’s problem is not a popular opinion, but whether he made the moves, which could be considered misconduct by the NFL. »
Watson may have to at least sign up for an assistance program. He surprised many when he said he had “no regrets” on March 25, when he was first publicly introduced as a member of the Brown family. The latter got his services from Texas and gave him a fully guaranteed contract for five seasons and $230 million USD despite his legal issues.
Watson admitted that the suspension may have had a negative effect.
“I regret the impact on society and that includes my family and this organization,” he said. This includes my teammates, who have to answer all of these questions. This includes Cleveland Browns fans.
This includes men and women around the world. I regret the impact this has had on so many people. »
Attorney Tony Busby, who represents all of the women suing Watson, would like to have more remorse for Watson’s comments.
“I think it would be appropriate to see Deshaun Watson express her regret or remorse for the way he has treated these women, some of whom are suing him and some of whom have not yet,” Busby said in a statement. Participation in the assistance program would be one way to prove this. We have nothing to say about it. »
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