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What N.F.L. Broadcasters Left Out in Deshaun Watson’s Return

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Watson’s return, and the coverage of it, comes because the N.F.L. is under intense scrutiny for its treatment of girls. The Washington Commanders are the topic of no less than six open investigations into widespread sexual harassment and abuse within the organization, and this spring six attorneys general warned the N.F.L.’s head office to enhance the way it treats female employees.

Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said the N.F.L. provided “no direction” to its network partners, including NFL Network, on how one can cover Watson’s return. Much of the coverage mirrored how the N.F.L., the Browns, the Texans and Watson himself wanted football fans to give it some thought: As a turning of the page, moving on from the intense accusations made against Watson to his latest role because the Browns’ franchise quarterback. When NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported last week that Watson was being reinstated, he concluded, “So which means it’s officially over.”

Yet much about Watson’s situation stays unresolved. He still faces two lawsuits accusing him of lewd and coercive behavior in massage appointments, after settling 23 others this summer; he must proceed to comply with the treatment program that was a condition of his reinstatement from his suspension; and the last time he directly addressed the accusations against him, in August, he insisted he was innocent and said the general public hasn’t been fascinated by his side of the story.

While each network covered the occasion in a different way, they’d much in common in what they neglected. Aside from an ESPN “Outside the Lines” segment that aired last week, it appeared that none of the important thing networks used footage during N.F.L. programming from either of the 2 news conferences given by Ashley Solis, the primary licensed massage therapist to publicly accuse Watson of sexual misconduct. Also notably missing was mention that the Texans, the Browns’ opponent on Sunday, reached settlements with 30 of Watson’s accusers after The Times reported that the team had provided the venue for among the appointments in addition to a nondisclosure agreement that Watson gave to among the women. Nor did the coverage detail the finding by the retired judge who oversaw Watson’s N.F.L. disciplinary hearing that Watson had engaged in “predatory” conduct that was “more egregious than any before reviewed by the N.F.L.”

Eliding the small print of the accusations, especially on the day Watson returned from a suspension arising from them, can “render what has happened less serious,” said Meenakshi Gigi Durham, a journalism professor on the University of Iowa.

“It’s critically vital the way in which the media cover the story, and likewise the way in which that the institution itself, the N.F.L., the way in which they’re coping with it,” said Durham, writer of the book “MeToo: The Impact of Rape Culture within the Media.” She added, “Since the broader message that’s being sent about sexual assault and sexual violence basically form of hinges on the way in which that it’s handled in public discourse.”

Watson made clear in the times before his return that he wouldn’t address the controversy directly. In his first news conference after being reinstated, he said that he had been instructed by his clinical and legal advisers only to reply football-related questions. The Browns’ official channels, including the team website and the team-sponsored radio show with Coach Kevin Stefanski, also stuck to football, referring to Watson’s suspension with none mention of why he was disciplined.

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