Deshaun Watson Suspended Six Games, NFL Appeals

Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - The decision came down today from disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, an independent arbiter, and she has given Deshaun Watson a six-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct. There is no additional fine. Twenty-five diffeent women accused Watson of misconduct in civil lawsuits, although all of those lawsuits have been settled (and one dropped) except one outstanding case. The NFL has three days to appeal... to itself, which is a strange legal situation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will give the final written decision per terms of Article 46 in the CBA. Will the NFL increase the suspension? Six games does not seem to be enough to me, but apparently the arbiter felt that six games was the standard for the first investigation of violating the personal conduct policy, particularly for "non-violent" sexual misconduct. There are 25 cases here, but it's one investigation, which means it's the first investigation. Seems like a bit of a legal loophole, but there we are.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY: The NFL this afternoon announced they will be appealing the suspension, seeking a tougher penalty. Under the CBA, Roger Goodell decides who will hear the appeal and has the option to consider it himself. Sources tell ESPN (and other reporters) that the league is still seeking a one-year suspension as well as a heavy fine.

 

View Full Article

Comments

175 comments, Last at 08 Aug 2022, 10:38pm

1 Six games and no fine is a…

Six games and no fine is a joke.  A mockery of the NFL's conduct system. It is disgusting...egregious...outrageous!

 

At a minimum Watson should be out for all of 2022, half of 2023, with a fine of $10 million.

17 +1

In reply to by barf

+1

9 Not really an analagous…

Not really an analagous situation.

Nobody filed charges (to my knowledge) against Kraft.  He was there, allegedly, to get a massage with happy ending.

Watson is, at minimum, guilty of several counts of sexual assault, and countless more of sexual harassment.  He visited these masseusses, allegedly, on the pretense of receiving a massage, before attempting to pressure said masseuses into having intercourse, and in some cases, literally rubbing his dick on them.  You, or I, would be doing jail time, assuming you don't have money to settle.

Tom Brady got four games because the laws of physics work.  I think a full season would be appropriate for Watson.  But maybe the arbitrator decided that last season was a de facto suspension, in which case the suspension is 23 games.  That's probably in the right ballpark.

21 Kraft was charged with…

Kraft was charged with solicitation.

Which can be via assault, but doesn't have to be.

There's no factual dispute that he paid a prostitute for services. (He did; there's video.) The case was argued on due-process grounds. But as evidenced by the sagas in Cleveland and Washington, the NFL doesn't really care if an owner murders a truckload of infants so long as their checks clear.

You, or I, would be doing jail time, assuming you don't have money to settle.

You don't monetarily settle criminal charges. Civil charges don't result in jail time.

43 Ah yes.  I meant to say…

Ah yes.  I meant to say charged by a victim.  He was charged with a crime by the government.

 

Unless one makes the case that the lady in question was coerced into providing such service, It's hard for me to get up in arms about transactions between consenting adults.

There should be some degree of discipline by the NFL, but as we've seen from the Snyder treatment, suspending an owner really doesn't amount to anything.  Now taking away the Patriots share of the gate from a couple of home games......

24 Not at all, really

Brady got 1 game for breaking the rule, 1 game for covering his tracks while doing so, and 2 games for lying like all living hell about it to the NFL investigators upon being caught.

Oh, and I will not revisit this. So feel free to fire away.

37 Nor I.

Nor I, although that's the first time I've seen it broken down like that.

48 Brady's cellphone

This Pats fan thinks that Brady's punishment was mostly for having the chutzpah to smash his cell phone.  I can understand why he did that despite the promise that only case-related info would be disclosed.  Riiiight!  If there were multiple very explicit Tom-Gisele conversations on the device, there would've been a near-100%chance of those juicy talks reaching social media.

(I still wonder what happened to the NFL's statement that they would be doing multiple air-pressure checks on multiple teams throughout the season following the incident, whether they changed their mind or found results that refuted their claims.)

114 lol

Brady got 1 game for breaking the rule, 1 game for covering his tracks while doing so, and 2 games for lying like all living hell about it to the NFL investigators upon being caught.

Even the NFL didn't allege that Brady broke any rules.

Wildly uninformed people like you are why Brady served any suspension at all.

Brady wasn't "caught".

Brady didn't "lie".

We are dumber for having been exposed to your lazy thought process.

And no, hit-and-run character attacks don't immunize you from anything.

75 Kraft's victims?  C'mon man…

Kraft's victims?  C'mon man.  I don't want to hijack the Watson thread, but this is a ridiculous take.  Leaving out the conjecture of which languages she speaks, If the woman who handled Kraft was a "victim", I would hope that the police would start with the owners of the massage parlor and be following the trail backwards, and not wasting their time with the customer.  You think they'd be messing around with a misdemeanor, rather than trying to break up a sex-trafficking ring?

The end result of this sting operation was always meant to be to embarrass the owner of the New England Patriots.  Which is fine, he deserves to be embarrassed.  But this was never about catching any other happy ending recipient, and certainly not about protecting the masseuses.

 

16 1)Kraft wasn't accused of…

1)Watson is accused of forcing himself on girls, not merely soliciting, although I think you already knew that

2)Kraft wasn't accused of assaulting anybody, let alone 24 people

3)Krafts an owner, whats a suspension going to do? Make him watch the game from home instead of at the stadium?

4)Two wrongs don't make a right

 

"I think 6 games is about right for asking for and getting handjobs from masseuses."

Ok, then if you think six games is right for solicitation, surely you think sexual assault warrants more than six games

23 Snyder is a better analogy,…

Snyder is a better analogy, because of the nudity forced on his own team's cheerleaders, but even then the comparison breaks down a little.  The Washington Football Team was trafficking in photos taken of women under compulsory circumstances, but not sexual assault. 

Kraft was an idiot for what he did, and moreso, when he did it (he could have been arrested the day of the AFC championship game), but there's no proof contact was not consensual in his case.

30 Depends. The federal…

Depends. The federal trafficking definition is a lot like the state definition of soliciting. But the state definition is trafficking is more like transportation or providing. Loosely, johns solicit and pimps traffic.

https://www.flcourts.org/content/download/217328/file/Human_Trafficking_Overview.pdf

116 "trafficking"

You understand that charges of sex trafficking were never brought against anybody?  A reckless sheriff dropped the phrase in his press conference but never had a bit of evidence to back it up.

"When the traffickees are clearly coerced?"

Let us know when you want to join the evidence-based community.

29 Perhaps Snyder or Kraft…

Perhaps Snyder or Kraft should be suspended for a season or fined a bunch or whatever.  But their lack of proper punishment should not preclude Watson from getting the punishment he deserves.  Two wrongs do not make a right, and flawed decisions of the past should not be held as precedent for future cases.  It is more important to make a correct decision now than to make another bad decision because the wrong decision was reached in the past.

112 3)Krafts an owner, whats a…

3)Krafts an owner, whats a suspension going to do? Make him watch the game from home instead of at the stadium?

Man, if I really wanted to torment, say, Jerruh Jones, I'd suspend him and appoint Jimmy Johnson to be caretaker of the franchise.

125 That would be a welcome…

That would be a welcome development.

Maybe someone can set up a sting operation on Ol' Jerry and Jimmy can add himself to the Cowboys Ring of Honor while appointing Troy as GM.

175 1. He hired masseuses to get…

1. He hired masseuses to get his fix. I am sure he did inappropriate things. Of the 25 women I guess that only a handful were really "offended", but no one filed a police report, no one contacted any management, and some even let him come back. So I take the amount of trauma with a large pinch of salt. 

I think what happened was that he treated the masseuses as his sex fantasy and some went with it, some didnt and continued some actually wanted him to leave. 

2 grand juries didnt see any evidence of rape or assault.

Only after Busbee started his lawsuit did the women jump the wagon. 

2, 3, 4. Ok. I didnt say 2 wrongs make a right, I just said that Kraft didnt get much punishment if any.

 

8 It's consistent with what…

It's consistent with what they did to Roethlisberger when he was accused of - but not charged or indicted - with rape.  The only justification for a mega suspension (other than multiple strikes on the PED policy) would be indictment and conviction of a felony which oh by the way didn't happen in this case and would much more likely result in a voided contract and kicked out altogether.

It is disgusting...egregious...outrageous!

 Tell that to the Duke lacrosse team.

117 It is sad

The false accusation:refusal to prosecute ration must be incredibly small.

Yeah, the case against the Duke lacrosse team should never have been filed.  It's done a lot of damage to the women who are actual victims of sexual assault.

2 The NFL has three days to…

The NFL has three days to appeal... to itself, which is a strange legal situation.

We investigated ourselves and found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Is 6 games enough to pay for Jimmy G, or do they try to wait out his release?

4 I mean, $24M (plus giving up…

I mean, $24M (plus giving up whatever resources the 49ers want in trade!) is a ton - the Browns only have around $15M cap space on a three-year basis (and, uh, they don't have a full team's worth of players either in '23 or '24).

But as I've said elsewhere I almost think they have to - this year is almost their best shot, and they need those first four games.

103 How much is JimmyG going to…

How much is JimmyG going to move the needle in those particular games, though?

If they can't go 3-1 (schedule game, I know) against @CAR, home vs. NYJ/PIT, @ATL even with Brissett, there are bigger problems

With the next games, I think they lose badly against both NE and LAC regardless of Brissett or JimmyG.

That said, still worth putting in a bid if JG is cut given the relative bargain he'll be at on the open market.

10 Don't forget that Watson's…

Don't forget that Watson's salary for this year is only something like $10M which was done to minimize loss of salary due to suspension.  So assuming I'm remembering this correctly, with 6 games he'll only lose approximately 3.6M.

 And anyway I also believe that a suspension does not alter a player's cap number so no space is created to sign someone else. Of course if the team already had space they could sign someone to fill in.

38 I believe teams can apply…

I believe teams can apply for waivers to get the cap space back for suspended players. If it's not automatic this may be case where it's not granted considering they actually TRADED for the guy. Suspended Salary I believe goes to the league. 

40 I forgot to comment on this…

I forgot to comment on this part. Once the player's suspended for X games his salary for the year just goes down by X/17, and so his cap cost goes down as well. No money goes to the league or anywhere. It's just not paid. Fines go to the league. Suspended salary just doesn't exist.

118 the silly thing

The biggest farce is that Goodell can appoint himself as the person to hear the appeal.  It was a joke in the Brady case and it's a joke now.  

What kind of process lets one side of an arbitration hearing appoint himself as the  adjudicator of the appeal of said arbitration?  It's ridiculous!

11 Can the NFL suspend him for…

Can the NFL suspend him for weeks 2 - 7 ? That would be funny...

Or could they suspend him for 6 playoff games instead of regular season games? Like in college football when teams are banned from bowl games?

14 Once again, I'll post a…

Once again, I'll post a controversial question. How should I feel about Watson in this case? As others have pointed out, he has not been proven guilty and as far as I know, all of this is alleged.

Now, given the sheer amount of women coming forward, I myself find it hard to believe he's innocent. But at the same time, I am a bit uneasy applying judgements to cases that never get to a trial / a plea deal.

18 Why do you feel uneasy?…

Why do you feel uneasy? Twenty-five women signed on to the lawsuit. The reporting has surfaced some pretty damning evidence in the form of text messages and other communication. The simple fact that he kept seeking out new masseuses, rather than settling on one that he liked or using one provided by the team, show that he was clearly looking for something more than just a massage. He's as much as admitted that something more than a massage happened at these appointments; his claim is that they were consensual. The Texans knew this was happening and knew it was at least a bad look and possibly even illegal and worked to cover his behavior. The evidence here might not be overwhelming, but I don't think it's particularly ambiguous.

Criminal prosecutions of sexual assault are notorious challenging - there's almost never any real justice for these cases through that avenue. The way our justice system works, the only real recourse these women realistically had was to file a civil suit and hope for a settlement, which is exactly what they got. We the public are not privy to the terms of the settlement, so we don't know whether these women got "please go away, you're making me look bad" money or "I'm obviously guilty and can't afford an actual judgment to that effect" money, which is exactly the point of keeping the terms of the settlement private from Watson's perspective. It's an outcome meant to create the kind of doubts that you're expressing here.

I grant you that there are cases where the facts are ambiguous enough that some caution is required when making judgments about the person. This is not one them. Not when there are, and this bears emphasis, twenty-five victims willing to take the risk to sign on to the lawsuit.

28 Vanishingly few civil trials…

Vanishingly few civil trials end in a verdict. Of cases that make it past dismissal, maybe 10% make it to trial and 5% reach verdict. No one likes taking one all the way -- not the parties, not the lawyers, not the judges, not the juries. There's no right to a speedy civil judgment, so they can drag on forever. (My personal record was a case that started when I was in pre-school and involved "minors" in their 40s; I had another where the grim reaper was working his way through everyone involved in the original case -- the original judge, attorneys, administratrix, and expert were all dead) Juries are terrifying, expensive random-number generators who don't want to be there and who hate everyone involved.

Everything else settles. Because civil cases are expensive and take forever, pretty much everyone has a number that will make it go away. The trick is getting two people to that number.

An interesting wrinkle to civil cases is that a third party can accept a settlement whether you want to or not. If you have an insurer involved who is on the hook for all/part of the judgment, they can choose to settle regardless of your desire. Most skin in the game gets the vote. This happens all the time in auto/homeowner claims.

34 Making it past dismissal…

Making it past dismissal only means there's some cromulent matter of fact still involved and/or some issue that may result in a violation of some law.

If you fail at getting past dismissal, you had a terrible case.

35 Yeah. That's what I said. It…

Yeah. That's what I said. It's not far off from a guilty plea.

If you fail at getting past dismissal, you had a terrible case.

Yeah. Of course. The other sets of cases you're not including are the ones that lawyers never pick up in the first place.

44 Those are how the criminal…

Those are how the criminal allegations went down -- charges not brought.

It's not far off from a guilty plea.

That's completely wrong. Dismissal also exists in criminal law as basically the same concept.

The closest thing to a civil settlement would admission would be a nolo contendere (damage was done, but I didn't do it) plea or a non-prosecution agreement (essentially the reverse of a nolo contendere plea -- I was guilty but no damage resulted), but those are rare and discouraged. 

But you can make a civil case go away without either aspect. There's not really an equivalent process under common criminal law. Even the super-old school 'trial by ordeal' was considered a finding-of-fact.

51 Those are how the criminal…

Those are how the criminal allegations went down -- charges not brought.

Yes, but the driving forces are different in both cases. And, of course, there are things that result in civil liability that aren't criminal. Plus there are cases of criminal liability where the damaged party doesn't want the criminal case to be brought, because of the problems that that will bring in the first place.

The closest thing to a civil settlement would admission 

Huh? If a prosecutor threatens you with charges in order to compel testimony, how is that not the equivalent of a civil settlement? If you agree, there's no admission of guilt and no record of charges, but you're forced to do something you didn't want to do that results in a benefit to the other party. That literally describes a civil settlement.

Like I said above, though, I don't really see the point in comparing the two situations. In this one Buzbee thought there was enough of a case to take it and a judge didn't immediately throw it out, which is already a very strong indication that Watson isn't a totally innocent party here.

55 If a prosecutor threatens…

If a prosecutor threatens you with charges in order to compel testimony, how is that not the equivalent of a civil settlement?

Are you talking about an immunity deal?

Those don't really exist in civil cases, because the co-defendants have to let you off the hook, too (Cross-claims are a thing). I've seen a party be flipped in civil cases, but it's not an official process.

63 You're focusing on the names…

You're focusing on the names of things rather than what the process effectively does.

In a civil case if you go to a lawyer, say "hey person X did bad thing get me money plz," the lawyer says "'kay", then goes to person X and says "yeah we know you did bad things so make it right," and then they settle (even though you might not be able to prove it), what's the end result? No one knows person X did anything bad and you get something from them that you want that makes it OK to you, so you're OK to let it slide.

In a criminal case, if you're a prosecutor, and you know person X did a bad thing but you want something else from them, you can threaten them with prosecution and get them to do something because of the risk. Functionally, it's the same thing: no one knows person X did anything, and you get something from them that you want that makes it OK to you, so you let it slide.

If I see a witness testify and find out they've been told they won't be prosecuted for some other thing, of course I'm going to be inclined to believe they probably did something wrong. Same thing with a civil settlement. It's the entire reason why defense attorneys push credibility points like this.

That's where this all started: is it OK to believe that a side that settles in a civil case did something wrong? Yes, absolutely. Obviously there are mitigating circumstances as with all things, but I don't see it as wrong to believe that a settled civil case implies wrongdoing.

The fact that basically all civil cases are settled doesn't change that fact. Civil cases don't have to exist.

72 You get out of jury duty by…

You get out of jury duty by stating that you believe anyone accused of a crime must be guilty, or else they wouldn't have been charged -- right?

Civil cases don't have to exist.

There is nothing you can do to prevent them. I could bring a civil suit against you only on the basis of a rough stab at your legal name and present location. I could sue a ham sandwich in civil court. (But that's not kosher) It probably won't win, but I can bring that suit.

"yeah we know you did bad things so make it right,"

If you knew those things you wouldn't need discovery. Civil settlements are most commonly an economic analysis.

If the cost of an offered settlement is less than the cost of defending a case plus (the probability of a given trial outcome * the likely demand), you usually settle. Not always -- there is a long-view benefit to not being seen as an easy mark, so it's generally worth your while to inefficiently stomp a loser nuisance suit to make a point to other potential litigants. Or sometimes there's a reputational argument to be made by vigorously defending, outcome be damned.

My ham sandwich suit? You might settle that if I offered to for $5. That's cheaper than even responding to my complaint. But you might not, because people like you will think your ham sandwich was a guilty pig.

76 You get out of jury duty by…

You get out of jury duty by stating that you believe anyone accused of a crime must be guilty, or else they wouldn't have been charged -- right?

Actually, I just get out of jury duty by being honest in voir dire. I have no idea how anyone, ever, has been on a jury unless they actually want to be. But I think most people aren't honest with themselves so I think that's the problem.

I think I've actually been asked a question similar to that, too. And yeah, of course I answer that my opinion towards them is biased towards guilty in that situation. Can't say if that specifically got me out of it. Probably balanced between that and saying that no, I innately distrust police testimony because they have no intrinsic incentive to present a fair view.

 

There is nothing you can do to prevent them. I could bring a civil suit against you only on the basis of a rough stab at your legal name and present location. I could sue a ham sandwich in civil court. (But that's not kosher) It probably won't win, but I can bring that suit.

Sure you can! Now try to make a career out of doing that. You won't. You'll go broke. This is my point. Settling a civil case is an economic analysis. So is taking one on as a lawyer.

You're viewing this from a lawyer's standpoint - anyone can sue! I'm viewing it from a citizen's standpoint - lawyers do not help you out of altruism.

79 You can represent yourself…

You can represent yourself so long as you're willing to have a fool for a client.

A civil lawyer for a plaintiff is not obligated to work on a champerty basis, although that has certainly become the norm for individual plaintiffs. You can still work the old-fashioned way.

\indeed, champerty used to be illegal -- up until about the Civil War

83 You can represent yourself…

You can represent yourself so long as you're willing

to lose.

A civil lawyer for a plaintiff is not obligated to work on a champerty basis, although that has certainly become the norm

Literally what I'm saying. I mean, I'm not obligated to work for money, either.

25 I'm not convinced, either. I…

I'm not convinced, either. I'm back and forth on it. Any case that's going to receive a different treatment depending on what decade it is, I'm going to be cautious about. And no charges means a big deal to me, especially considering it's the US, where even teenagers can get convicted for sexual crimes for doing relatively innocuous kid things.

146 I'll respectfully suggest

that if Deshaun Watson had been a poor 19-year old and accused of sexual assault by 25 different women he very likely gets convicted.  Let's face it, moneyed folks have the means to buy off the justice system.  They can hire teams of lawyers and investigators who do their own research / investigations that can bring a case to a grinding halt, forcing the state to invest exponentially more resources into the prosecution.  This not only stretches the state's resources, it makes conviction much less likely.  And thus, the state often chooses not to prosecute a moneyed defendant where the same facts would often result in full prosecution of a poor defendant (usually with the defendant just pleading guilty bc he has a public defender juggling hundreds of cases as opposed to a team of lawyers laser-focused on his case).  

America has two justice systems....if you're moneyed and end up a felon, there's virtually no chance you were innocent.  If you're poor and end up a felon, there's a substantially high chance you were innocent.  

153 that if Deshaun Watson had…

that if Deshaun Watson had been a poor 19-year old and accused of sexual assault by 25 different women he very likely gets convicted.  Let's face it, moneyed folks have the means to buy off the justice system. 

The trend is right but the arrow is in the wrong direction.

The problem isn't that the rich can buy justice, it's that the poor cannot. That 19 year-old is going to jail because he cannot afford effective counsel.

\being effectively anonymous, it's also more remarkable that 25 people would attempt to railroad some rando. Not impossible, but less likely.

157   The problem isn't that the…

 

The problem isn't that the rich can buy justice, it's that the poor cannot. That 19 year-old is going to jail because he cannot afford effective counsel.

I appreciate the idealism but the idea that golly gee, that 19-year old would be totally safe if he only had a hero lawyer is just unrealistic. Money doesn't just buy lawyers. Money buys investigators, experts, and consultants. Money doesn't solve all problems in a courtroom, but it certainly never hurts.

That being said it doesn't make sense to blame the justice system anyway, since, I mean, if things get really bad, the rich just... leave.

147 I'll respectfully suggest

that if Deshaun Watson had been a poor 19-year old and accused of sexual assault by 25 different women he very likely gets convicted.  Let's face it, moneyed folks have the means to buy off the justice system.  They can hire teams of lawyers and investigators who do their own research / investigations that can bring a case to a grinding halt, forcing the state to invest exponentially more resources into the prosecution.  This not only stretches the state's resources, it makes conviction much less likely.  And thus, the state often chooses not to prosecute a moneyed defendant where the same facts would often result in full prosecution of a poor defendant (usually with the defendant just pleading guilty bc he has a public defender juggling hundreds of cases as opposed to a team of lawyers laser-focused on his case).  

America has two justice systems....if you're moneyed and end up a felon, there's virtually no chance you were innocent.  If you're poor and end up a felon, there's a substantially high chance you were innocent.  

33 How should I feel about…

How should I feel about Watson in this case? 

He's a rich person who uses his money to get people to stop talking about his behavior. I feel the same way about him as I do anyone else like that: like I have no desire to be in the same room with him.

36 The system is broken in this…

The system is broken in this regard. Roughly 18% of rapes/sexual assaults lead to an arrest, and only 7% to a conviction. Lack of a guilty verdict doesn't mean much given the legal system's weakness in handling these type of cases. And given all we know on Watson, I think it's rational to pass some judgment on him here. 

59 That's not out of line with…

That's not out of line with other crimes and a fair amount better than property crime.

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/clearances
https://www.vox.com/2018/9/24/17896034/murder-crime-clearance-fbi-report
https://www.sfdistrictattorney.org/policy/data-dashboards/
https://www.stattorney.org/10-year-conviction-data

Loosely, 1/3 to 2/3 of cases result in catching someone; about half to 2/3rds of those are formally charged, and about 75-90% of those are convicted.

Murder is probably the easiest to handle -- there's little to no factual dispute that a crime has been committed, you don't need a party actively bringing charges, it's relatively notorious, and people are usually willing to un-ass themselves over a bullet-riddled corpse.

And if only about half of those result in a conviction, then everything else is going to be a bunch lower.

88 That's not out of line with…

That's not out of line with other crimes and a fair amount better than property crime.

...about 75-90% of those are convicted.

Are you sure those numbers aren't the other way around? In any case, I was wondering about something similar. 7% might be convicted, but how many of those are guilty? No way to know. Comparing with conviction rates for other crimes would seem like the best way to make sense of the number.

52 "Deshaun Watson met with at…

"Deshaun Watson met with at least 66 women for massages in 17 months" this is not normal. He was looking for sex in all the wrong places and many of these women were wronged by his behavior. If I was a Cleveland fan I wouldn't be now.

73 A Rich Man's (lack of) Justice

Above everything else, even race, it's very handy to be rich in the American legal system.  It really is a two-tier system, and the evidence required to convict (of a crime) or get a civil judgement is orders of magnitude greater when the defendant can afford an army of lawyers and investigators.  I despise that more than any single individual taking advantage of it.

The chances that every single encounter was 100% consensual approach zero.  

82 The chances that every…

The chances that every single encounter was 100% consensual approach zero.  

If you apply that reasoning to its logical conclusion, for all potential crimes, the probability that everyone is a criminal approaches 1.

104 I've said many times that I…

I've said many times that I accept all of the karma coming from what I've said about Ben Roethlisberger before.

I've heard Browns fans try to argue that Baker's Cheesecake Factory "excursions" and other rumors (i.e. affairs with teammates' WAGs) are as bad or worse, which is...um.

That said, the mentioned mitigating factors lead me to think that everything that's transpired (including the time served) is "about right."

26 I don't know, the thread…

I don't know, the thread hasn't gotten completely disgusting yet.  I hate the circumstances a lot more.

No one is going to be able to convince me that Watson is not a complete scumbag.

42 Kareem Hunt

The punishment I’m having a hard time squaring this with is Kareem Hunt. Hunt got 8 game for pushing a person (who happened to be female) to the ground during an altercation. And possibly also getting into a fistfight in a separate incident. 

Watson only gets 6 games for what was presumably premeditated sexual assault of as many as 25 women?

 

 

46 Albert Haynesworth got 5 for…

In reply to by MJK

Albert Haynesworth got 5 for assaulting someone on the field.  Basically, I think they just wing it and make up a number every time. 

Rothlisburger got 6 (reduced to 4) for 2 accusations. 

Jameis Winston got 3 games for basically one instance of what watson did. Difference in star power I guess. 

105 Officially, it's based on …

Officially, it's based on "no violence, threat, force or coercion" in the four cases the NFL presented.

Of course, many people are, understandably, parsing that terminology (i.e. technically assault can happen without any of the above.)

111 I dunno....I would call…

I dunno....I would call rubbing your dick unsolicited on a woman assault, even if it isn't violent.

However, it's possible that those accusations were from the group of alleged victims who settled.

127 I'm basically working on the…

I'm basically working on the assumption that some of the women are telling the truth and some are lying for money, and that truth is most likely to be found at the median of the accusations, since outliers are more likely to be lying. The odds that all of the women are either telling the truth or lying, considering all they have in common is their profession, seem impossibly low to me.

58 Hate to break it you, but…

In reply to by MJK

Hate to break it you, but the NFL is lucky that the arbitrator recommended any games, given that Watson effectively missed the entire 2021 season over this matter and has not been criminally charged with anything so far.  At some point, we're just going to have to reconcile with the fact that there just isn't enough proof that Watson did the things that he's accused of.  In contrast, there was video evidence of bad conduct in the Rice/Hunt situation, there is evidence of bad conduct when a player pleads guilty to a criminal offense, and there is evidence of bad conduct when a player fails a league-administered drug test.  In addition, the NFL hasn't exactly penalized truly abhorrent behavior that was also confirmed by a guilty plea in the past.  Please see the below for historical reference.

Donte' Stallworth missed 1 year after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter after killing a pedestrian while driving drunk (link).

Leonard Little was suspended for 8 games after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter after killing another motorist while driving drunk (link)

93 To me this is the wild part:…

To me this is the wild part: he wasn’t suspended last year! He made every penny he was contractually supposed to, that shouldn’t count for jack shit as a punishment in my opinion. He stayed away and the Texans wanted him to stay away, yes. But that’s not the same as a suspension and shouldn’t be viewed as such by any official party involved. Hell, he was already threatening to do that *before* these allegations came out, if he didn’t get traded. Then he became a radioactive dumpster fire and they couldn’t trade him so he sat out. That’s not a punishment.

106 Also, another ding against…

Also, another ding against Hunt is that he lied to the Chiefs about the extent of the incidents (which arguably is understandable because admitting the truth was going to put his career at risk.)

107 At some point, we're just…

At some point, we're just going to have to reconcile with the fact that there just isn't enough proof that Watson did the things that he's accused of.  In contrast, there was video evidence of bad conduct in the Rice/Hunt situation, there is evidence of bad conduct when a player pleads guilty to a criminal offense, and there is evidence of bad conduct when a player fails a league-administered drug test.

That has nothing to do with the suspension. The arbitrator agreed that Watson was guilty by a preponderance of the evidence. Once you're over that bar, it doesn't matter if she was 50.1% sure or 99.999% sure, the penalty is supposed to be the same.

62 Watson was effectively…

Watson was effectively suspended all of last season. The combined suspension of almost one and a half years is one of the longest in Sports history. Short of throwing him out of the league I don’t see the point in anything longer. 

68 The NFL refused to clearly…

The NFL refused to clearly state to the teams whether Watson was allowed to be on an active roster.  Instead, by refusing to take a position, they took a non-declarative stance that pretty much made his participation in games kryptonite.

84 According to OverTheCap he…

According to OverTheCap he got paid all his guaranteed money. Not sure it was ever explained what was going on there. It seemed like he was stitting out due to contract issues however as it's not like the team or league suspended him. 

86 Actually, one of the…

Actually, one of the important notes there is that Watson had to agree to it: teams aren't allowed to just punish players by not playing them since the Owens incident and the following CBA.

87 It may be annoying but here…

It may be annoying but here is the timeline.

https://www.si.com/nfl/2022/03/11/deshaun-watson-timeline-what-has-occurred-first-lawsuit-filed

He demanded a trade, Houston didn't honor it b4 the allegations came out and made him untradeable. Seemed more like a holdout honestly. 

102 Well, holdout because he…

Well, holdout because he totally effing hated the Texans, rather than for money.

That's why the whole "it was a suspension" part kind of falls apart. Watson could've pressed the issue : he could've sued that he wasn't playing because he was being punished illegally for the lawsuits, and forced the Texans to either play him or trade him (or cut, I guess).

But in some sense Watson was fine with the situation because the whole "play for the Texans" thing was just unacceptable.

128 Right, and there was a tacit…

Right, and there was a tacit agreement. If Watson insisted on playing, the commissioner would have put him on the reserve list (suspension with pay). All sides decided limbo was a better state, but he certainly wasn't playing until this was resolved.

91 Yes, as soon as the trade…

Yes, as soon as the trade request was made back in January 2021, the Houston Texans definitively determined to sit him and pay him for as long as necessary for football related reasons.  Yes, the NFL investigation that was opened in March 2021 and went on for over a year had absolutely zero impact on his trade value or ability to step on the field.  Yes, no team in the league wanted to trade for him and then play him solely because of football reasons.

I guess that could all be true.  But then explain why that same player eventually sparked a serious bidding war before signing a contract with the largest guarantee in NFL history a year later?  It's pretty obvious that the NFL knowingly put Watson's career on hold until things were sorted out. And Watson agreed to it because he didn't want to play for Houston anymore and he continued to get paid.  I'm willing to guess that he wouldn't have been so charitable if he went on unpaid leave.

96 Re: Watson history

Use whatever term to describe Watson’s apparent need to engage in this despicable  manner.  The fact is that something drives him to act this way.  It will be pretty surprising if this does not resurface.  And then whatever benefit of the doubt awarded him now will almost certainly vanish 

 

 

99 Observations on the actual ruling

I think many of the comments above (which have some GOOD discussion) were written before Judge Robinson's ruling was published.  She was a very good judge when on the bench (I've read many of her rulings in my area of law and I'm sure some of my law partners have appeared before her).  Her ruling varies from what was reported \ what had been guessed at first.   It's short and I recommend it.

(Added correction:  six games, not six months.)

ESPN originally "reported" that the six month suspension was based a lack of evidence, as if there was uncertainty as to liability and that the sentence was a compromise or discount to reflect that uncertainty as there would be in a civil case settling for money.  That's what I expected to read.  Not so.  Judge Robinson found AGAINST Watson on liability, accepting the NFL's arguments and especially its investigation -- which to my somewhat surprise included actual interviews of many of the plaintiffs.  (Although I did not see a reference to the most serious allegation I read in a civil complaint -- that Watson forced a women to perform oral sex on him.  The ruling was based on only four of the cases.)  This was on a more probable than not civil standard, lower than the standard for criminal cases.

Deshaun Watson was found to have done what he was accused of doing.  That's the huge story here.

The NFL gets a lot of criticism, often deserved.  (Don't get me started on Tom Brady -- I'm not a Brady acolyte, but even I saw exculpatory evidence in the NFL's own report which the NFL ignored.)  But anyone criticizing the NFL on this case must recognize that put its resources AGAINST Watson on the merits and WON.  (Sure enough, skimming the Internet now, it appears that more of the negative comments are directed against the Judge than against the league.)  Key factors on the merits included Watson taking an all or nothing stand denying anything had happened (hoist by his own petard -- as the judge put it, "[I]t is difficult to give weight to a complete denial when weighed against the credible testimony of the investigators who interviewed the therapists and other third parties.") and the fact that none of the four victims (I had not used that word before, I do now but will also use "therapists" so as not to reduce the women to mere victims rather than full and complete humans with dignity) whose encounters with Watson created his liability wanted to work for him again even though he asked.  Judge Robinson wrote that the NFL investigators had credibility, and it was through the investigators that the therapists' accounts were brought into the record.   The NFL believed the therapists, stood up for them by asking for at least a one year suspension, and persuaded Judge Watson to believe the therapists too. 

By the way, I give major credit here to the therapists' lawyer Tony Buzbee, who surely was involved in persuading them to speak to the NFL.  He must have recognized that the NFL process was an alternative to continued private litigation to get what the therapists wanted, a topic to which I return below.  I'm usually on the defense side in litigation (none of which involves these type of allegations) but respect good plaintiffs' lawyers.  Throughout Buzbee moved brilliantly including because, I think, he moved honestly.

Judge Robinson imposed a six month sentence (i) because she characterized the violations against the four therapists considered in the ruling as nonviolent and no prior suspension for a nonviolent violation had been that long (would she have said this if the more serious forced sexual attack been included?); (ii) due to the nebulousness and lack of definition of the types of grounds for suspension, especially what essentially is conduct casting disrepute on the league; (iii) because even though Watson showed no contrition, he was a first time offender with a previously good reputation and paid "restitution" i.e. the settlements.  I think her concern on point (ii) valid and some day will write about that in connection with broader issues.  (Short form:  I am skeptical of private punishment.  That is the function of the government of the people.)

By the way, the NFL did not select the six month sentence.  Judge Robinson did.  The NFL asked for more, and may appeal.  (I'd advise against it because the Judge sided with the NFL on the merits and keeping that relationship and finding is more important than the results for this one case.)  Railing against the NFL for inconsistency or incompetence in comparative sentencing is not very well taken in my opinion.  And as others have written even before this case, why should the NFL be good at that function?  Why should any private organization?  It's difficult enough for full-time professional jurists to write and apply sentencing guidelines.

I think the therapists are BIG WINNERS in this.  A former federal judge listened to their accounts and Watson's denials and believed the victims.  It would have been better had none of this ever occurred, but a credible investigation and ruling found that it did because the victims were NOT ignored.  Unfortunate as all of this is, that's progress.  [Added post-script on this:  so this turned out to be the opposite of Rivers McCown's fear and statement in the Cleveland Brows chapter of this year's Almanac, where he wrote that society often does a poor job of listening to victims.]

If the therapists won, what did they get?  As much as they could get at this point.  As someone above wrote, they could not have obtained criminal sanctions in their civil cases.  And although they asked for money in those cases (which is a reason why I did not have a problem with Watson signing a playing contract), their complaints claimed that they wanted only minimal compensation.  They have received at least that via the settlements from Watson and the Texans, who believe it or not I view positively here.  As a civil litigator I usually say that civil cases are about money, and there's discussion above to that effect which is true in 999.999 out of a million cases, but these cases were the exception. 

Rather, the therapists wanted to establish that Watson did what they said he did, that he treated them with what I'd call at best disrespect for their profession (which is how the most eloquent and brave of the therapists has explained it).  That is how Deshaun Watson has been judged.  As it is, right now, not only will he sit six games; he has lost fans and surely millions of dollars in endorsements.  It's more than a slap on the wrist; unless remediated, it's a lifetime mark.  As the cases of Ben Roethlisberger or Kobe Bryant show, over time, things can be forgotten and reputations can be burnished.  (I'm sure many people who knew Bryant very well sincerely believed he did not do what was accused of doing, but he was charged with a more serious crime than Watson, and actually charged.)  Watson has a long road ahead of him to do that.  He had good lawyers too.  It could have been much worse for him -- he could have been adjudged by the public legal system as a sex offender and forced to register as such for life.  And is that prospect totally off the table????

Stendhal

100 Post-script on the perfidy of some of the media

After I posted this, I watched ESPN while eating dinner.  The news crawl at the bottom stated, as the ESPN site had stated earlier today, that an indefinite suspension was not imposed due to insufficient evidence.  Nonsense.  I read-read the penalty section of the ruling, searched the entire document for "evidence" and "insufficient" and "indefinite" etc.  Not true.  A one year or longer sentence was not imposed for the reasons I wrote, not due to any lack of "evidence."

ESPN is either lying or stupid in continuing to report what it is reporting.

109 Why?

“ESPN is either lying or stupid in continuing to report what it is reporting.”

Why only one or the other?  Generally, they excel at both.

in your informative comment, you write several times that it is a six month suspension.  Isn’t it six games?

121 Good correction

In reply to by Raiderfan

Six games, I usually work on time limits rather than game units.

Good luck with your Raiders, they certainly tried hard this off-season to be bold and improve the team in a tough division.

119 ESPN sucks

ESPN purged most of their good writers a few years ago, to replace them with more obedient writers who won't anger any of the major leagues.

As you say, the problem with the NFL's case wasn't a lack of evidence, but their attempt to invent a wholly new standard of punishment on the fly.

And yet the NFL is getting blasted in the media for not being tough enough!

I don't want to be seen as defending Watson, but the logic of this suspension is bizarre.  Watson hasn't even been charged with any crime.  Allegations have been made in civil court (which has a lower standard of evidence) and he's settled most of the cases out of court.  From a legal standpoint, it's hard to see what the NFL is responding to.

But of course, for the NFL this is just a PR exercise.  They pretend to have a system of justice and the fans buy into it, up to the point of demanding that the NFL make up rules on the fly.  

It's an incredibly well-funded kangaroo court.

120 From a legal standpoint, it…

In reply to by RickD

From a legal standpoint, it's hard to see what the NFL is responding to.

I'm so, so, so confused by this statement. I see it all over this thread, and my brain just can't wrap itself around it. Do people really want the NFL to be limited by "legal"? Why? If I'm at a customer service job and I yell at customers, I'll get fired or sent home. It's not illegal to yell at people, but I'm still getting punished by work.

The NFL's an entertainment job - if you do something that makes people less entertained, you get punished for it. Why do people bring legal into it at all?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "the NFL's disciplinary process is great" - dear God, far from it. But the whole "we can still punish people even if they don't get a legal judgement against them" isn't part of the problem. Now, the whole Robert Kraft thing, that's different (in other words, if you're saying "person X didn't get a suspension, so this is clearly unfair" I agree with you).

It's an incredibly well-funded kangaroo court.

I mean... how does this not describe basically every job ever? Yeah, there are some legal guard rails but they're oh-my-God so easy to get around. I mean, the whole maternity leave disaster in the US is like example #1 for it. You're upset Watson gets a six-week suspension from an entertainment gig because he created a national scandal with 24 women complaining about what he did? On the list of "unfair things done by an employer" that's like, #6,456,072 down the list.

143 Do people really want the…

Do people really want the NFL to be limited by "legal"? 

The NFL is so completely clownshoes at anything approaching fair and impartial that "legal" is probably a good place to start from. They need guardrails, if not training wheels.

The NFL's an entertainment job - if you do something that makes people less entertained, you get punished for it. 

If being "less entertaining" merited punishment in the NFL, the Patriots would not exist.

"It's entertainment" is why ESPN covers professional rasslin' with a straight face. It's bullshit. Sports are entertainment based upon a non-predetermined competition of equal terms. Really, we're asking for non-predetermined and equal terms. I have no faith in and evidence against the NFL's ability to do that, so I tend to discount the legitimacy of their "justice".

148   The NFL is so completely…

 

The NFL is so completely clownshoes at anything approaching fair and impartial that "legal" is probably a good place to start from. They need guardrails, if not training wheels.

If we're talking about things in society that need guardrails/training wheels for clownshoes behavior, the NFL is sooo far down on the list I don't even think about it.

If being "less entertaining" merited punishment in the NFL, the Patriots would not exist.

There's no public outcry for the Patriots to be booted out of the NFL. There is public outcry for Watson. I don't understand the idea that Watson shouldn't be punished based on public opinion. All entertainers are punished based on public opinion. If the NFL came out and said yeah, none of us are hiring you because of your behavior, why is that bad? And if that's not bad, how is "yeah, we're not letting you play for 6 weeks because of your behavior" somehow different?

154 There's no public outcry for…

There's no public outcry for the Patriots to be booted out of the NFL. 

The Patriots should be booted from the NFL!

\now there is

If the NFL came out and said yeah, none of us are hiring you because of your behavior, why is that bad?

Because the NFL doesn't have MLB's anti-trust exemption. Frankly, history indicates pretty well why MLB shouldn't have it, either.

159 Because the NFL doesn't have…

Because the NFL doesn't have MLB's anti-trust exemption.

It's only an antitrust violation if they actually communicate/interact with each other, which is where Kaepernick's case had legs (plus because it was tied to politics). Not hiring someone because they're not worth it isn't an antitrust violation. Eventually everyone gets to the point where NFL teams don't want them. It's not an antitrust violation that no one's signed Antonio Brown.

162 It's only an antitrust…

It's only an antitrust violation if they actually communicate/interact with each other

You mean like this?: If the NFL came out and said yeah, none of us are hiring you because of your behavior, why is that bad?

122 And today ESPN got it right! Changes my opinion on one point

Dan Graziano wrote a concise and accurate account of the decision.  He explained something I did not know — an appeal is limited to the penalty.  So while Watson might be able to comment on the merits ruling on an appeal, he could not overturn it.  Dan also explained, which is not in the decision itself, that the NFL has the final say on the penalty.  The league may feel compelled to push for a longer suspension in order to set a data point for the next case.  The downside to that is that it might compel the NFLPA to push back.

108 By the way, the NFL did not…

By the way, the NFL did not select the six month sentence.  Judge Robinson did.  The NFL asked for more, and may appeal.  (I'd advise against it because the Judge sided with the NFL on the merits and keeping that relationship and finding is more important than the results for this one case.) 

I have read that the appellate judge according to the CBA is Goodell himself, so it wouldn't seem like the finding would be in any jeopardy.

113 Excellent Post

Excellent analysis, thank you.

I think it is still possible, though, to agree with your analysis above but also to think the Judge was soft in this case - particularly on your points (i) and (ii).

Whether the (proven) offences were "non-violent" is debatable but they were certainly non-consensual sexual assaults. And to my mind she rather over-emphasises the nebulousness of the definitions and punishment structure, at least in this case. I can well see that there may be questions around the margins about "bringing the league into disrepute", but I don't see that any reasonable player could have been under any illusions that committing serial sexual assaults on people providing services to him in his role as an NFL player would be likely to lead to very serious punishment.

I also don't really buy the suggestion in some places that the Ridley comparison is an unfair one because they are different offences. Of course they are different, but one purpose of a punishment system is to try to achieve broadly proportionate outcomes across different types of wrong.

123 Good points

In reply to by LondonMonarch

Actually not my points i and ii, they were in the opinion; but i in particular could be debatable when it wasn’t in the process — the judge wrote that there was no dispute as to the nonviolent nature of the then-alleged offenses.  Had they considered the terrible allegation of forcible oral sex, it well could have been different.  Best guess here is that the plaintiff in that case was not among those who talked to the NFL.

Personally, and I said this for the Pete Rose case years ago, I think gambling is an entirely different category of its own.  

124   Personally, and I said…

In reply to by Stendhal1

 

Personally, and I said this for the Pete Rose case years ago, I think gambling is an entirely different category of its own.  

Gambling literally is in a different category in the NFL. Watson's case is under the Personal Conduct Policy, which does not cover gambling or PEDs. The disciplinary processes are totally different - and this isn't an example of "NFL arbitrariness," it's specifically part of the collectively-bargained agreement (variation of punishments within the personal conduct policy are an example of NFL arbitrariness).

129 Yes and No

Of course that is literally true, and part of the reasoning why the outcome has been one that many people would find surprising is that there is a CBA behind this and it is essentially a tripartite dispute.

But it is really only half an answer, because the NFL could and should have (and frankly the NFLPA could and should have also) bargained for an agreement which provides for more proportionate sanctions both in the context of gambling (lower!) and sexual assault (higher!). I can't see how it can paint either side in a good light to have established a systems which treats perpetrators of repeated sexual assault more generously than a player who is on leave and places small bets on his team-mates to win.

131 Oh, I don't know....I think…

In reply to by LondonMonarch

Oh, I don't know....I think you have to throw the book at a player gambling on the games...up to and including expulsion.  What separates professional sports from professional wrestling is the idea that the matches are not fixed, especially now that gambling is not only legal, but encouraged.  I've got zero issues with Ridley's punishment...and I'm not sure it needs to be less than Watson's...within the context of the NFL.

The U.S. justice system, on the other hand, should have a much bigger problem with Watson.

132 Unrealistic

Obviously player gambling on games shouldn't be permitted, but the punishments need to be realistic and proportionate. Sure if you are talking bets of many thousands of dollars, which is a level at which there might start to be realistic suspicions about involvement in matchfixing - but the notion that Ridley having some modest parlay bets is a genuine threat to turn the NFL into WWE is beyond fanciful.

Meanwhile the bans for PEDs (demonstrable cheating which actually does affect the competitive balance of games) are feeble in comparison.

139 I don't see a problem with…

In reply to by LondonMonarch

I don't see a problem with Ridley's punishment. It's just zero-tolerance. You don't do it. Period. You can't "accidentally" gamble, there's always intent.

PEDs actually have a more graded response because the NFL's testing of it is insane, and so you do get guys who test positive and face suspensions because of things they didn't intend to do. That's why the PED appeals essentially always fail - intent doesn't matter, so the punishments are graded to deal with that.

141 Unconvincing

Of course you "just don't do it". But you also "Just don't do" sexually assaulting multiple massage therapists. It doesn't mean that the two offences are of equivalent seriousness (let alone that the gambling is more serious).

142 Betting $1500 on your own team

In reply to by LondonMonarch

Implies he was getting insider info from who?

Let's stop acting like it affected anything in any type of way. No one can go back and point to it like they can Tim Donaghy.

150 Yup. Or what types of…

Yup. Or what types of gambling are "worse" than others. It's really the same thing as the PED situation, you just have a blanket "no" and don't even bother with trying to have degrees. Way, way safer, especially from a legal standpoint.

151 Then stop grandstanding

And siding with them for punishing someone for doing something legal that affects no one else while readily admitting a guy like Watson did more treacherous acts that you limit who he can get a massage from.