prospect | The NFL’s failure to protect women saved Deshaun Watson from responsibility

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Deshaun Watson won. Unfortunately, he won. Ominously, he won.

When an Independent Disciplinary Officer issued his decision on Monday morning, it was as sickening as it was predictable. In the NFL’s inconsistent punishment system, two dozen sexual misconduct charges are worth a meager six-game suspension.

Maybe Watson is so distressed with his rights that he might privately think he deserves no ban, but Sue L. Robinson, a former U.S. District Judge, just ripped a feather out of him and tickled him. wrist. After more than a year of avalanche allegations that he is a relentless, remorseless creep when alone with female massage therapists, the Cleveland Browns quarterback is on his way out of a mess he created better than he was before allegations of his wrongdoings came to light.

He won, which means the integrity of the NFL – what’s left of it – has been lost.

He won, which means August 1, 2022 must go down as a terrible moment in the history of professional football.

He won, which means the league let the women down. Still.

Deshaun Watson suspended for six games by a disciplinary officer

The reason you have a personal conduct policy is so you can drop the hammer in a situation like this. But now that the NFL and its players’ union have moved from Commissioner Roger Goodell’s old omnipotent kangaroo court model to third-party judgment, it’s no longer so easy to set arbitrary rules in anticipation of public opinion. public. And that’s how Watson got away with a slight punishment. Robinson’s 16-page ruling makes it clear she relied on Goodell’s inconsistent record as a disciplinary and could find no precedent or pattern to substantiate the league’s argument that Watson should be suspended for at least a year.

Essentially, Robinson’s decision can be seen as an indictment of the haphazard and lens-influenced practices of the NFL over the years, dating back to the disgraceful and vapid manner in which Goodell handled the domestic violence case of Ray Rice eight years ago. It’s never a good thing when a judge is looking for fairness in a confusing methodology.

His bizarre decision is the result of getting too fixated on the league’s tangled logic. The weeds of the NFL are infuriating yet fascinating, and the attempt to systematize the madness has led Robinson to be soft on Watson despite the NFL proving the three most important aspects of its case.

She said the league successfully argued that Watson violated its general personal conduct policy by engaging in acts of sexual assault, undermining the integrity of the NFL and endangering the safety and well-being of the NFL. to be of others. However, she resorted to the cumbersome and objectionable term “non-violent sexual assault” to put Watson’s offenses in this awkward bubble of mild misconduct, which made her think that her sins were not on par with the past domestic violence incidents in which the league imposed eight- and 10-game suspensions.

This rationale was bizarre and sent the worst possible message to Watson’s alleged victims, who shared stories of the quarterback’s non-consensual ejaculation during massage sessions and other inappropriate and aggressive behavior that left them traumatized. To downplay the manner in which they were raped — and in her decision, Robinson clearly states that she considered the NFL to have met the burden of proof for sexual assault — is a maddening misrepresentation of this type of sexual violence.

Robinson, who specialized in antitrust and trademark infringement law during her career, seemed like a particular fit for the case, but the league and the NFL Players Association agreed on her appointment. From now on, the language of “nonviolent sexual assault” will go down as an insensitive and inglorious reminder of the day Watson avoided significant punishment.

Watson, a marquee player in team sports’ most famous position, has settled 23 of 24 civil cases against him, all of which accused him of sexual assault or harassment. Although a criminal investigation against him did not result in charges, there is an implication of guilt with these settlements. The NFL conducted its own investigation and presented evidence and testimony from only four of the victims to Robinson. She referred to the other cases, but they were not considered in her decision. Still, even the small sample size should have been enough to warrant a longer suspension.

Robinson relied on precedent without fully considering the NFL’s argument that the Watson case is unprecedented due to the volume of allegations. She grouped it with players who were punished for single incidents that violated the personal conduct policy. Robinson should have considered a multiplier because the NFL proved its case by using four women.

Four takeaways from Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension decision

For now, Watson can circle an Oct. 23 road game against the Baltimore Ravens as his return date. He didn’t play a snap last season, but that wasn’t a punishment. He had requested a trade from Houston, and the Texans felt it best to protect his trade value by having him sit in the middle of the chaos. He still earned the $10.5 million Houston owed him last season, and when the trade to Cleveland happened in March, he signed a new contract with a historic full guarantee of $230 million, even though his civil cases were unresolved at the time. For those who think Watson suffered, stop with the celebrity brown nose, please. When it’s all over, he’ll come out front.

During the six-game suspension, Watson will lose approximately $350,000. The Browns structured his contract in anticipation of a punishment, so he would lose less money than if the deal had been anticipated. It was an incentive to get him to agree to be traded to Cleveland. Watson is on a better team. He earns record money. And now he’s about to escape what threatened to ruin his pre-Halloween career.

He won, unless the NFL chose to engage in a protracted legal battle.

The league or the NFLPA can still appeal the decision. Prior to the announcement of the punishment, the NFLPA indicated that it was okay with what was to come. Goodell has the last word. League attorneys can throw the case out and go directly to the commissioner or someone he designates. Given Goodell’s history of fussing with public outcry, he could simply drop the hammer himself, undermining the new punishment process and likely triggering prosecution hell.

No matter the result, the stain cannot be erased. The NFL is so backward that it just proved to a judge that it employs a quarterback with a ‘flagrant’ record of sexual assault, but after reviewing the league’s puzzling disciplinary practices, it’s decided that it was fairer to sit him down for six weeks and just remind him that, oh yeah, your days of reading Instagram for women to rub on your body are over, mate.

Watson can’t be trusted in a room with a massage therapist, but he’ll be an NFL star again in no time.

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