NFL had to appeal Deshaun Watson’s suspension

The NFL had to appeal Hanging by Deshaun Watson. All the arguments to keep Judge Sue L. Robinson’s six-game penalty intact — arguments about respecting the new collectively negotiated disciplinary process, maintaining social peace, the idea that the NFL could outsource a messy situation to a neutral party and wash their hands of the decision – was offset by the obvious fact that Watson shouldn’t be playing football in October.

Watson, the 26-year-old Cleveland Browns quarterback, was investigated by the NFL after he was named in three sexual misconduct lawsuits (that number would eventually rise to 24) by women he hired as masseuses. Some of these lawsuits say Watson ejaculated on women without their consent; some say he touched women with his penis without consent; two say Watson orally penetrated women without their consent. All but one of these cases were settled out of court.

Robinson only heard about the experiences of four women at the hearing, which began in June, but she concluded that Watson was engaging in “egregious” behavior. And after announcing its decision on Monday, the NFL had three days to appeal. He did so on Wednesday and, according to a source, is asking for an indefinite suspension of at least a year. There will be no further formal debate – the league management board has filed the appeal and commissioner Roger Goodell or designate will make the decision. It’s tempting to imagine Goodell in some sort of one-man Off Broadway show, presenting the case to himself and then donning an old-fashioned judge’s wig to make the decision. It’s not this away, though Goodell would probably be wise to appoint someone else to the league office to make the final decision.

The NFL is now in a complicated situation. But really, it already was. This case featured what could be a record number of people and franchises embarrassing themselves in the wake of scandal: the Browns, the Texans, the double-digit teams who desperately wanted to be in the Browns’ shoes even knowing the possible consequences. . It’s become a story of power, what teams will do to sell a franchise quarterback, and the optics of a league obsessed with it. And for the NFL, there was only one way out. The league knew there would be a backlash against Something, and he decided on Wednesday that he’d rather people be angry at the process than angry at lax punishment.

If the indefinite suspension is imposed, there’s only one way for it to end: the NFL Players Association will sue, and it will end in federal court. The NFL will eventually catch on, no matter how long it takes. The New York Times” Jenny Vrentas sharp out On Wednesday the ABC said the NFL’s decision was “full, final and complete.” She quoted a labor law expert who said that because of this clause, anything the NFL brings back will be impervious to judicial nullification. The NFLPA can buy its members time or goodwill by pulling this, but the new CBA, signed in 2020, is like the old ones: The NFL has ironclad language in its corner that will give it the ‘victory’ , as she does in Deflategate and other cases that have been brought to court. A handful of Browns fans and generally anti-NFL analysts have floated high-profile lawsuit ideas that would upend the league and embarrass owners. That’s not how it all works. There is, ultimately, a result.

The idea that the NFL wouldn’t use its full power in such an extreme case has always been wrong. Goodell took on his role as “The Enforcer” – dubbed as such by a 2012 Time magazine cover— to have a say in the discipline of the players. This level of power came after a series of off-court scandals early in his tenure and changes in personal conduct policy that saw Goodell hand down heavy sentences. In subsequent CBA negotiations, the union tried to negotiate less power for Goodell. “It was aggressively resisted,” the union’s outside attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, told me a few years ago. “It was, frankly, nothing they wanted to consider.” This dynamic has changed slightly after the 2020 ABC – a former judge like Robinson will hear cases now. But the end result was not: the NFL can always get the result it wants, when it really wants it.

I believe the 2014 Ray Rice saga informed almost everything about modern star punishments in the NFL. In July, Goodell suspended Rice two games for punching his then-fiancée, Janay, in an Atlantic City elevator. Goodell said at the time, “We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL, and there are consequences for that.” But when the video emerged in September, the public backlash was so severe that the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely. He was eventually cut by the Ravens and never played in the league again. I covered this story closely, attending several Goodell press rallies that month. It was the only time, I think, that the national media debated whether Goodell would keep his job.

What made the Rice case different from other domestic violence cases handled by the league was not just Rice’s video, but the pressure from the media who rarely cover the NFL. Not just the biggest newspapers in the United States, but the network morning shows, the national evening news. It’s the NFL’s job to stay away from these broadcasts for negative reasons, and Goodell and his disciplinary errors led Block A.

The danger of a short suspension for Watson is therefore twofold: First, the media scrutiny whether he should return in mid-October would be intense. The NFL could survive this. But the second and biggest problem with a short suspension is that the Watson saga is still In progress. It hasn’t even been two months since Vrentas most recent explosive report: that Watson met at least 66 women for massages over a 17-month period, and that the Houston Texans helped facilitate the dates and even provided Watson with nondisclosure agreements. A lawsuit is still active. Optically and a plot it’s optics – it’s bad for the league Watson plays in October. But even worse, the depth and scope of the story means there may be more stories to come, more shoes to drop. External investigations do not go far. The women involved in these cases aren’t leaving just because Watson might return to the field.

The NFL had to appeal for a number of reasons: First, Robinson’s report denounces Watson’s behavior, but makes it clear that the six-game suspension was based on his belief that the NFL cannot make sweeping changes to the duration of his suspension without first notifying the players. The decision came from an extremely narrow interpretation by the ABC, while the NFL, on the other hand, has a long history of rapid, no-notice rule changes. In addition, there is the fact that Watson shows no remorse for his actions or admits to wrongdoing – two factors that were cited to his detriment in Robinson’s report. In fact, reporters said Wednesday that Watson’s camp still thinks six games is too much.

If Watson’s suspension had remained at six games, it would have maintained a broken system. Not just because it would mean virtually no violation of the Personal Conduct Policy could extend beyond six games, but because it would reward a franchise that went all-in in one of the most reckless moves in the game. modern history of the NFL. It is important to note here that a handful of teams would have like to have Watson on their team, which is why the trade cost for him this spring was so high in picks, and ultimately money. It was the Browns who guaranteed him a fifth year. The Browns were the team that, right after a grand jury declined to indict Watson, gave him more clout and the biggest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history. Watson’s no-trade clause meant he could choose where he went, and Cleveland did everything they could to make sure it was his choice.

On Monday and Tuesday, thinking Watson would only miss six games, a handful of NFL teams were likely jealous that the Browns would receive a punishment as light as a tax for acquiring a franchise-altering quarterback. As cynical as you think the league is, it’s worse. A dozen NFL franchises right now would sign up to take a six-game hit in exchange for having Watson on their team. But a legal quagmire, a full-season saga, is an entirely different situation.

I’m not at all moved by the Twitter posts you can set your watch to: those that point out that Calvin Ridley has been suspended for a year for a few bets, or that players have already been suspended more than six games for weed in the NFL. Different BCAs and different policies mean different results. But the NFL is extremely aware of its optics — you don’t hit $11 billion in revenue a year without that awareness — and it knows six games was a joke. Hell, the Browns probably know that. It was the only shot the NFL had. He will set up a process that he would like to see completed. But in the end, the only choice the league had was to take one reaction over another.

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