NFL to appeal six-game ban for Browns quarterback Watson

The NFL is appealing a disciplinary officer’s decision to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for: six matches for violating the league’s personal conduct policygiving Commissioner Roger Goodell or anyone he designates the power to impose a more severe sentence.

Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson made her ruling Monday after Watson was accused by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments while playing for the Houston Texans.

In her 16-page report, Robinson described Watson’s behavior as “more outrageous than ever before judged by the NFL.”

Robinson’s sentence — in her first case since she was jointly named by the league and the NFL Players Association — more than met the indefinite suspension of at least one year requested by the league.

So, the NFL on Wednesday exercised its right to appeal, according to the collective bargaining agreement.

The players’ union has until the end of the working day to respond in writing. The union could challenge the appeal’s ruling in federal court, paving the way for a protracted battle.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no timeline for Goodell or his representative to make a ruling.

According to the competition’s personal conduct policy, the appeal will be processed expeditiously. It will also be “limited to considering the disciplinary conditions imposed” and “based on a review of the existing record without reference to evidence or testimony not previously considered.”

The policy also states that the “decision of the commissioner or his delegate, who may undo, reduce, amend or increase the discipline previously issued, shall be final and binding on all parties.”

This marks the first time since the signing of the new CBA in 2020 that the league and the NFLPA have turned to a jointly appointed disciplinary officer to determine violations of the Personal Conduct Policy. In the past, Goodell has served as a judge and jury to impose penalties on players.

By appealing, the NFL returns that power to Goodell, who can choose another person to inflict each penalty.

A league official told The Associated Press before Watson’s three-day disciplinary hearing in June concluded that the NFL wanted to avoid an appeal.

But the competition continued amid backlash from some fans and intense public media pressure. Other factors include Watson’s lack of remorse, which Robinson noted in her report.

The NFL pleaded for an unprecedented penalty and wanted to fine Watson at least $5 million, a person familiar with the discussions told the AP on condition of anonymity because the hearing was private.

Watson, who played four seasons with the Texans before leaving last season and being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by the women alleging sexual harassment or assault during massage treatments in 2020 and 2021. Two Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson over criminal charges filed by 10 of the women.

Robinson concluded that Watson violated three provisions of the Personal Conduct Policy: assault; conduct that poses a real danger to the safety and well-being of another; and conduct that undermines or jeopardizes the integrity of the NFL.

She declined to suspend Watson for an entire year based on precedents and current league policies. But Robinson concluded that a longer suspension could be justified if it was already set out in the personal conduct policy.

“While it may be perfectly appropriate to punish players more severely for nonviolent sexual conduct, I do not believe it is appropriate to do so without notice of the extraordinary change this position represents for the NFL and its players,” Robinson wrote in her statement. report.

Watson has continued to practice with the Browns pending a resolution to his case, which has raised questions about the league’s handling of players’ behavior off the field, inconsistencies in its personal conduct policies and its general support for women.

The Browns are also in a state of uncertainty, not knowing when and if Watson will be able to play this season.

Cleveland traded three first-round picks to Houston for the three-time Pro Bowl QB and signed him to a $230 million five-year contract.

Watson will lose only $345,000 if the suspension remains unchanged, as his base salary is $1,035 million this season.

Watson did not comment on the AP when asked for a comment on the league’s decision to appeal. He was then escorted to the Browns facility by a member of the team’s security personnel.

The three-time Pro Bowler had just completed Cleveland’s seventh training camp and was still on the field when the announcement of the league’s appeal was posted.

Watson had a chat with Peter Jean-Baptiste, the team’s vice president of communications, before spending a few minutes signing autographs for military members and their families.

He was hugged by a woman who said she told Watson to “stay strong.”

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

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