Deshaun Watson’s legal team ready to face NFL – NBC Chicago
Deshaun Watson’s legal team faces the NFL on Tuesday before a retired judge to determine his immediate future with the Cleveland Browns.
Former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, will hold a hearing to determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has agreed to settle 20 of 24 civil sexual misconduct lawsuits, but he still faces a significant penalty. A person familiar with the NFL’s stance told The Associated Press last week that the league is seeking a lengthy suspension for Watson due to the number of sexual assault allegations and conversations with the 11 women who have been suspended. available for interviews. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as details of the hearing have not been publicly disclosed.
Watson’s team, led by famed attorney Jeffrey Kessler, will attempt to argue that there is no basis for a lengthy suspension. Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints arising from the allegations. Watson denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.
The NFL has punished several players for violating the league’s personal conduct policy without criminal charges. In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension after being accused of sexual assault by two women. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell later reduced the suspension to four games. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott appeared in six games in 2017 for incidents of domestic violence.
On Monday, a woman who previously sued Watson filed a lawsuit against the Houston Texans, alleging her former team provided her with resources to enable her actions and “turned a blind eye” to her behavior.
This will be the first hearing for Robinson, who served as Delaware’s first female district chief judge. Previously, Goodell had the authority to impose disciplinary action for violations of the Personal Conduct Policy. Still, Goodell wields considerable power. If the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or his representative “will issue a written decision which will constitute a full, final and complete settlement of the dispute,” under the terms of Article 46 of the collective agreement.
That means Goodell could ultimately overturn Robinson’s decision and give Watson a year or even an indefinite suspension due to the possibility of other cases.
In April, Major League Baseball suspended pitcher Trevor Bauer for two full seasons following the league’s investigation into domestic violence and sexual assault allegations against him. This suspension did not include the 99 regular season games the Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander missed after being placed on administrative leave on July 2, 2021.
When asked if MLB’s handling of Bauer’s case had been discussed, a league official told the AP it was difficult to compare the two, but pointed out that the charges against Watson were serious enough to warrant “unprecedented punishment”. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Robinson did not hear the matter.
It’s unclear how long it will take Robinson to make a decision, but the Browns should know Watson’s availability before training camp. NFL discipline typically begins the week before the regular season opener, so Watson would be eligible for camp unless a potential punishment states otherwise.
The Browns traded a slew of draft picks to acquire Watson and gave him a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract in March.