After a 15-month N.F.L. investigation into claims of sexual misconduct against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, a choice on how or whether Watson shall be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy is predicted Monday.
Sue L. Robinson, the retired federal judge jointly appointed by the N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association to oversee player discipline, notified each the league and the players union on Sunday morning that she would issue her ruling on Monday, in accordance with two individuals with direct knowledge of Robinson’s communication. These people requested anonymity because Robinson has not discussed the method publicly.
Greater than two dozen women have accused Watson of engaging in sexually coercive and lewd behavior toward women he hired for massages from the autumn of 2019 through March 2021, when he was a member of the Houston Texans. Twenty-four women filed civil lawsuits against Watson and 20 suits were settled in June. Watson denied the claims and grand juries in two Texas counties declined to charge Watson criminally.
Among the many conduct prohibited by the league’s personal conduct policy are sex offenses, actions that endanger the security and well-being of one other person and anything that undermines the league’s integrity.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, after a primary grand jury declined to charge him but before a second one did, and awarded him a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract. The choice on Watson’s discipline has been widely anticipated, not only consequently of the Browns’ investment in him, but since the breadth of allegations against Watson set this other than every other personal conduct case that has been considered by the league.
The league and Watson’s representatives couldn’t negotiate a mutually agreed upon discipline, putting the initial decision in Robinson’s hands. She oversaw a three-day hearing in late June, during which the N.F.L. beneficial that Watson be suspended indefinitely and required to attend at the least a full season to reapply, while the union and Watson’s representatives argued against a lengthy ban. This was the N.F.L.’s first personal conduct case to be heard by a disciplinary officer as a substitute of Commissioner Roger Goodell, a protocol established within the 2020 collective bargaining agreement.
The league and the players association would have three business days after Robinson’s ruling to submit a written appeal, which could be handled by Goodell or an individual of his selecting. However the players union said in an announcement on Sunday night — before Robinson issued her decision — that it will not appeal and called on the N.F.L. to let the ruling stand.
“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and won’t be tarnished based on the whims of the League office,” the union said. “Because of this, no matter her decision, Deshaun and the N.F.L.P.A. will stand by her ruling and we call on the N.F.L. to do the identical.”
The N.F.L. began its investigation of Watson in March 2021, when the primary accusers’ lawsuits were filed. The league’s investigators, who shouldn’t have subpoena power, met with 10 of the ladies who filed lawsuits against Watson, contemporaneous witnesses to confirm their accounts and other women who’ve worked with Watson.