Deshaun Watson case: Let’s look at why the judged ruled as she did – Terry Pluto
Updated: Aug. 01, 2022, 2:50 p.m.|Published: Aug. 01, 2022, 2:14 p.m.
SIX GAME SUSPENSION
FILE - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson walks on the field during training camp. AP
By Terry Pluto, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Six games? Only six games?
That was the tone of several emails I received after Judge Sue L. Robinson announced her decision that Deshaun Watson should be suspended for six games.
Jim wrote: “The Haslams (Browns owners) may yet get Super Bowl parades without me. But I can live with myself not supporting these unethical people. I would be completely embarrassed to be a Cleveland pro football fan today.”
Robert wrote: ‘I truly hope the Browns lose every game they play with this (deleted) on the roster.”
Mike wrote: “Once again the NFL has proven that it’s all about the money for them and that they don’t care about anything else. This league certainly doesn’t practice what it preaches and is so unethical. Now, the question is which writers will man up and write about how wrong this is. My guess is there will be few if any that will have the (guts) to do so.”
Those were the first three emails I saw after the ruling. Many with different opinions came in later.
For the record, the NFL has the right to appeal the decision. The NFL Players Association said it will accept Robinson’s ruling.
One of the reasons I was outraged by the Browns wanting Watson is because I knew it would fracture the fan base. I also was sickened by the tone and content of many of the claims of the therapists, even if there were no criminal charges filed.
WHAT THE JUDGE SAID
In her ruling, Robinson wrote the following:
“I find that the NFL has produced sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the last prong of the test, that Mr. Watson knew such sexualized contact was unwanted. Of course, there is no indication on the record that even experienced therapists ‘want’ such contact, and Mr. Watson certainly did not seek out the most experienced therapists.
“Moreover, there is credible evidence that one of the therapists expressed her discomfort of the unwanted contact to Mr. Watson during the sessions, and another of the therapists ended the session early. Given that none of these therapists accepted Mr. Watson’s invitations to engage in further therapy sessions, I find the evidence sufficient to demonstrate that Mr. Watson knew, or should have known, that any contact between his penis and these therapists was unwanted.
“I, therefore, find that the NFL has carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the Report. Mr. Watson violated the Policy in this regard.”
The report gives a detailed description of some of Watson’s activities that is unsavory – most of which has been revealed publicly before by the attorney representing the therapists.
A key point is the NFL only had four therapists speak at the three-day hearing in front of Robinson. That is a contrast to the 30 therapists who received a settlement from the Houston Texans concerning Watson’s actions. The quarterback has settled with 23 of 24 therapists who filed civil suits against him. Some of those were duplicate claims.
WHY ONLY SIX GAMES?
Robinson didn’t give Watson’s conduct an endorsement.
She clearly thought he was in the wrong.
But she also claims the NFL is “attempting to impose a more dramatic shift in its culture without the benefit of fair notice to - and consistency of consequence for - those in the NFL subject to the policy.”
In other words, she said the league changing some of the rules in the middle of the game.
When the Browns investigated players who were suspended for at least a year, they either had a) criminal felony charges, or b) Gambling charges. Neither applied to Watson.
It seems the judge viewed the situation through the same historical lens.
“Looking at the record when compared to the relevant precedent, and looking forward to how this disciplinary determination might be used in the future, I find the most appropriate landing place to be as follows:
“Mr. Watson is hereby suspended for six (6) regular-season games without pay. Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
We’ll see if the NFL wants to appeal the decision, but this process was agreed upon by the league and Players Association. But as I wrote earlier, the Browns should be very thankful for Robinson’s ruling – it could have been much worse.
More Browns coverage
Watson suspended 6 games by NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson for alleged sexual misconduct; NFL can still appeal
Watson timeline: What to know as Browns quarterback faces suspension
Watson suspension: What is the appeal process?
Do you agree with the length of the 6-game suspension? (poll)
NFLPA won’t appeal Deshaun Watson ruling and urges NFL to do likewise; NFL will retain the right to appeal
What lies ahead for Baker Mayfield as he tries to win the Carolina Panthers’ starting job
Watson settles 3 of the 4 remaining civil suits against him by massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct
Deshaun Watson’s 6-game suspension: Read Sue L. Robinson’s 16-page ruling here
NFL says it will decide whether or not to appeal
Orange and Brown Talk Reaction podcast
Browns activate tackle Jack Conklin from PUP list, waive wide receiver Isaiah Weston
Decision has been handed down, but the ordeal feels far from over: Ashley Bastock
What are some of the most memorable player suspensions in U.S. sports history?
Browns should be thankful for Deshaun Watson’s 6-game suspension – Terry Pluto
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