NFL appealing Deshaun Watson’s 6-game suspension, league says

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson suspended by the NFL for 6 games
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The NFL said Wednesday it is appealing Cleveland Brown quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy for “egregious acts” of “sexualized contact” with massage therapists.

Retired Judge Sue L. Robinson presided over Watson’s case and issued the suspension Monday.

The NFL said in a statement it has notified the players’ union it is appealing. It had three days from the ruling to appeal, the league said in the statement.

“The NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal,” the statement said.

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Attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing two dozen massage therapists who have accused Watson of misconduct, lauded the NFL’s decision to appeal Wednesday.

“Bravo to the NFL. It’s never too late to do the right thing,” he said. 

Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. No one with the NFLPA was reached.

Robinson ruled there was “sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the NFL’s contention” that Watson sought sexual contact with several massage therapists he reached via social media.

The quarterback “knew such sexualized contact was unwanted,” the judge added.

But she questioned the NFL’s desire to bench Watson for all of 2022.

“According to the NFL, if this recommended sentence is unprecedented (as characterized by Mr. Watson and the NFLPA), that is because his conduct is unprecedented,” Robinson added. 

Robinson also said in her decision, “It is inherently unfair to identify conduct as prohibited only after the conduct has been committed, just as it is inherently unjust to change the penalties for such conduct after the fact.”

The most typical suspensions for acts of domestic violence have been six-game bans, according to Robinson, adding that Watson is entitled to the benefit of some mitigating considerations.

He’s a “first-time offender,” had “an excellent reputation in his community prior to these events” and was already sidelined throughout 2021 as the allegations hovered over him, the judge said.

“Mr. Watson is hereby suspended for six (6) regular-season games without pay,” she ruled. “Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”

Watson was also ordered to limit his massages to “Club-directed sessions and Club-approved massage therapists.”


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