CLEMSON, SC — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was charged by 24 women with sexual assault and sexual misconduct in a civil lawsuit filed in March 2021, has been suspended for six games.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday morning that former federal judge Sue L. Robinson found Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and suspended him for six games.
Robinson’s decision as Disciplinary Officer is not necessarily final. The NFL and NFLPA will have the opportunity to appeal the length of the suspension. At this point, league commissioner Roger Goodell will make a final decision or call an independent officer.
In an article published by SI.com on Sunday night, Watson and the NFLPA issued a joint statement on Robinson’s impending decision, making it clear that they plan to abide by the ruling and hope the league does the same.
“Prior to Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,” the statement began. “First, we have fully cooperated with each NFL investigation and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former federal judge – jointly appointed by the NFLPA and the NFL – held a full and fair hearing, read thousands of pages of investigative documents and considered the arguments of both parties impartially.
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“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. That’s why, whatever his decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by his decision and we call on the NFL to do the same.
Twenty-five women filed civil suits against Watson as of March 2021, and only one dropped her case due to confidentiality concerns, as of April 21. Watson agreed to settle 20 of the 24 civil suits on June 22.
The alleged accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault took place during massage therapy sessions.
Watson has denied all allegations against him, and two Texas grand juries declined to criminally indict him earlier this spring.
The quarterback’s hearing with Robinson began on June 28 with the NFL reportedly pushing for an “indefinite suspension,” which “would give the NFL the flexibility to keep him longer depending on a variety of factors, including if more cases surface,” per The Wall Street Journal. The league reportedly wanted the “indefinite suspension” to be no less than one year.
According to Monday morning reports, Watson is expected to practice today for the Browns. Players suspended for less than a year are generally allowed to participate in all activities during the pre-season.
During his six-game suspension, Watson will lose $345,000 in salary based on his new contract with the Browns. Under his previous contract with Houston, he would have lost $11.67 million with a six-game suspension.