Browns QB Deshaun Watson suspended six games
Watson, who played four seasons with the Texans, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage treatments in 2020 and 2021.
Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended six games Monday after being accused by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments in what a disciplinary officer said was behavior “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
The punishment handed out by the game’s disciplinary officer, former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, fell well short of what the NFL had asked for: an open-ended suspension of at least a year for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.
Watson, who played four seasons with the Texans before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault during the treatments in 2020 and 2021.
The NFL has three days to appeal the decision.
“Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL,” Robinson wrote in the conclusion to her 16-page report.
As a condition of his reinstatement, Robinson mandated that Watson only use massage therapists approved by the team for the rest of his career.
And she said Watson must have “no adverse involvement with law enforcement and must not commit any additional violations” of the personal-conduct policy.
The NFL Players Association has said it would abide by Robinson’s ruling. If the NFL appeals, commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates will make the ruling on an appropriate punishment, per terms of the collective-bargaining agreement. The union then could try to challenge that ruling in federal court.
The league had pushed for a suspension of at least a year and a $5 million fine for Watson, 26, during a three-day hearing before Robinson in June, two people familiar with the discussions told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the hearing wasn’t public.
The NFL presented a 215-page report based on dozens of interviews, including testimony from four of 12 women interviewed by league investigators. Robinson determined that Watson violated three provisions of the personal-conduct policy: sexual assault; conduct posing a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.