The NFL Players Association reportedly has a plan to protect Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshawn Watson if and when the NFL decides to remove him from office following ever-increasing civil lawsuits against Watson over sexual assault.
The source said Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that the NFLPA, which is supposed to protect Watson, would argue that whatever punishment Watson faces is different from how the NFL treated the three team owners after their own off-field scandals. Those owners, according to Florio’s source, are Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
“According to a source familiar with the alleged strategy, the NFLPA is currently preparing for a league recommendation for an ‘unprecedented’ punishment of Watson,” Florio wrote.
“The source explains that the NFLPA will defend Watson in part by making aggressive arguments based on the consequences, or lack thereof, foisted on the three owners, who recently became embroiled in off-field controversy. The argument would be that Watson’s punishment is not proportionate to the punishment of those owners, especially in light of this key line from Personal Conduct Policy: “The authorities and management of a club or league have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to greater discipline in the event of a breach of the Personal Conduct Policy.”
What did Snyder, Kraft and Jones do and how were they punished?
The NFL investigated Snyder’s allegations of workplace misconduct, but only fined him $10 million and forced him to cede day-to-day operations to his wife. He was not suspended or asked to sell the team. Snyder remains implicated in two congressional investigations related to the original NFL investigation. He recently refused to testify before the House Oversight Committee regarding their investigation.
Kraft was charged with extortion in 2019 as part of a larger heist by a prostitution ring in Jupiter, Florida. He pleaded not guilty and the charges were dropped in 2020 after an appeals court dismissed video evidence against him. Kraft was not reprimanded by the league for his actions.
Jones reportedly paid a total of $2.4 million to four Cowboys cheerleaders. who accused senior team principal Richard Dalrymple of filming them in the women’s locker room, according to an ESPN report. However, a Cowboys spokesman said the team found no evidence of wrongdoing on Dalrymple’s part, and neither Jones nor the Cowboys were ever investigated by the NFL.
How does this affect Watson?
The NFLPA’s strategy is not so much to deny the allegations against Watson, of which there are many, but to demand equal treatment for owners accused of such violations. It also means shedding light on the NFL’s compliance with its Personal Conduct Policy.
Thus, if the NFL removes Watson from office, regardless of the outcome of the civil lawsuits against him, then, in the opinion of the NFLPA, Snyder, Kraft and Jones should receive comparable punishments for their own scandals.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters in late May that the league’s investigation into Watson was “nearing the end,” but recent additional lawsuits against Watson this month cast doubt on when the league would make its decision.
Watson pleaded not guilty as recently as Tuesday, when he told reporters he “never attacked, disrespected or harassed anyone,” despite more than 20 civil sexual harassment cases against him and a New York Times report. which details other encounters between Watson and the masseurs.