The NFL had to appeal the suspension of Deshawn Watson. All of the arguments to keep Judge Sue L. Robinson’s six-game penalty in place—arguments about enforcing the new collective bargaining disciplinary process, maintaining labor peace, the idea that the NFL could outsource a difficult situation to a neutral party, and wash your hands after making a decision. – outweighed the obvious fact that Watson should not play football in October.
Watson, a 26-year-old quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, came under an NFL investigation after his name appeared in three sexual harassment lawsuits (that number eventually increased to 24) by women he hired as masseuses. Some of these lawsuits allege that Watson ejaculated on women without their consent; some say he touched women with his penis without their consent; the two say that Watson orally penetrated women without their consent. All but one of these cases were settled out of court.
Robinson learned of only four women’s experiences at hearings that began in June, but she concluded that Watson had a “blatant” pattern. And after it announced its decision on Monday, the NFL had three days to file an appeal. He did so on Wednesday and is seeking an indefinite ban for at least a year, according to the source. There will be no more official debate – the league’s board of directors has filed an appeal, and the decision will be made by commissioner Roger Goodell or a person appointed by him. It’s tempting to imagine Goodell in something like an Off Broadway one-man show, presenting a case to himself and then donning an old-fashioned judge’s wig to make a decision. Is not what far, though it would probably have been wise for Goodell to appoint someone else in the league’s office to make the final decision.
The NFL is in a mess right now. But in fact, it has already happened. This case features a league-record number of people and franchises embarrassing themselves in the aftermath of the scandal: the Browns, the Texans, double-digit teams who desperately wanted to be in the Browns’ shoes even though they knew the consequences. . It became a story about strength, what teams would do to sell out for a franchise quarterback, and the league optics that obsessed over them. And for the NFL, there was only one way out. The league knew there would be a backlash something, and on Wednesday it was decided that let the people be angry at the process itself, rather than at a weak punishment.
If the indefinite suspension is delayed, there is only one way to end it: The NFL Players Association will sue and the case will go to federal court. The NFL will eventually get its way, no matter how long it takes. The newspaper “New York TimesJenny Vrentas indicated outside On Wednesday, the CBA said the NFL’s decision is “complete, final and complete.” She quoted a labor law expert who said that because of this clause, anything the NFL returns will be impervious to judicial rebuttal. The NFLPA could buy time or goodwill from its members by pulling this out, but the new CBA signed in 2020 is exactly the same as the old ones: The NFL has an iron tongue in its corner that will give it a “win.” did in Deflategate and other cases that went to trial. A handful of Browns fans and anti-NFL analysts in general have floated ideas of far-reaching lawsuits that would turn the league on its head and embarrass the owners. This is not how it all works. In the end, there is one outcome.
The idea that the NFL would not use its full power in such a last resort has always been misguided. Goodell took over the role of “The Enforcer”. as such by 2012. Time magazine cover— to have a wide impact on the discipline of the players. This level of authority came after a series of off-field scandals early in his tenure and changes in personal conduct policies that allowed Goodell to hand down harsh punishments. In subsequent CBA negotiations, the union attempted to negotiate a reduction in Goodell’s powers. “It met with aggressive resistance,” external union consultant Jeffrey Kessler told me a few years ago. “Honestly, it wasn’t something they wanted to consider.” That dynamic has shifted slightly since the 2020 CBA, with cases now being handled by a former judge like Robinson. But the end result hasn’t changed: The NFL can still get what it wants when it really wants it.
I believe the 2014 Ray Rice saga told just about everything about modern NFL star punishments. In July of that year, Goodell suspended Rice for two games for hitting his then-fiancee Janai in an Atlantic City elevator. Goodell said at the time“We have a very strong policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL, and there are consequences for that.” But when the video surfaced in September of that year, the public outcry was so strong that the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely. The Ravens eventually cut him out and he never played in the league again. I recounted this story in detail when I attended several Goodell press meetings that month. I think that was the only time the national media debated whether Goodell would keep his job.
What made Rice’s case different from other domestic violence cases the league has dealt with is not only Rice’s videos, but pressure from the media, who rarely cover the NFL. Not only the biggest newspapers in the United States, but also the network morning broadcasts, the national evening news. It’s the NFL’s job to stay away from these shows for negative reasons, and Goodell and his disciplinary error led block A.
Thus, a short-term suspension for Watson is dangerous in two ways: firstly, if he returned in mid-October, media attention would be intense. The NFL can handle it. But the second and biggest problem with the short suspension is that the Watson saga Still continuous. Less than two months have passed since Vrentas last bombing report: that Watson met with at least 66 women for massages over the course of 17 months, and that the Houston Texans helped arrange meetings and even provided Watson with non-disclosure agreements. One claim is still pending. optical and a lot of it’s an optic – it’s bad for the league that Watson is playing in October. But to make matters worse, the depth and scope of the story means there could be more reporting ahead, more boots. External investigations have not gone away. The women involved in these cases do not leave just because Watson can return to the field.
The NFL had to appeal for a variety of reasons: First, Robinson’s report vehemently condemned Watson’s behavior, but made it clear that the six-game suspension was based on her belief that the NFL could not make massive changes to the length of the suspension without first player notifications. The decision came from an extremely narrow interpretation of the CBA, while the NFL, on the other hand, has a long history of quick and subtle rule changes. In addition, there is the issue that Watson shows no remorse for his actions and does not admit to any wrongdoing – both factors were cited to his detriment in the Robinson report. In fact, reporters on Wednesday said the Watson camp still thinks six games is too many.
If Watson’s suspension had remained at six games, the broken system would have remained unworkable. Not only because it would mean that virtually no personal conduct violation could go beyond six games, but because it would reward a franchise that went all-in on one of the most reckless moves in modern NFL history. It is important to note here that several commands I loved to have Watson on his team, which is why the price of trading for him this spring was so high in picks and ultimately in money. The Browns were the ones who guaranteed him a fifth year. The Browns were the team that, in the immediate aftermath of the grand jury’s failure to indict Watson, gave him more leverage and the largest fully guaranteed deal in NFL history. Watson’s no-trade clause meant he could choose his destination, and Cleveland went to great lengths to ensure it was his choice.
On Monday and Tuesday, believing Watson would only miss six games, a handful of NFL teams were probably jealous that the Browns would receive such a light punishment as a franchise-changing quarterback tax. As cynical as you think the league is, it’s worse. A dozen NFL franchises right now would sign up for six games in exchange for having Watson on their team. But a legal quagmire, a full-fledged saga, is a completely different situation.
I’m not entirely moved by the Twitter posts you can set the clock on: the ones that indicate Calvin Ridley was suspended for a year for multiple bets, or that players were previously suspended for more than six games for weed in the NFL. Different CBAs and different policies mean different results. But the NFL is very aware of its optics – you don’t get $11 billion in annual revenue without that understanding – and it knows six games was a joke. Crap, browns they probably know it. It was the only NFL move. It will pull the process it would like to terminate. But in the end, the only choice the league had was to accept one backlash over another.