Deshaun Watson avoided an indefinite ban from the NFL over the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him by a swath of massage therapists. Retired federal judge Sue Robinson found that the embattled Cleveland Brown QB should be suspended for six games instead. Yet, it was her addendum to the ruling that’s left others in the sports world, both players and commentators, feeling confused.
“Recognizing that the only discipline in the CBA is a fine or suspension, I nevertheless believe it appropriate for Mr. Watson to limit his massage therapy to Club-directed sessions and Club-approved massage therapists for the duration of his career, and so impose this mandate as a condition to his reinstatement,” Judge Robinson wrote.
According to a New York Times article, the 26-year-old visited a minimum of 66 different massage therapists between fall 2019 through spring 2021. Watson’s former team, the Houston Texans, eventually settled claims with 30 women who accused the play caller of misconduct. Watson himself has also settled out of court with 23 of 24 women who have claims against him, too.
“Mr. Watson is to have no adverse involvement with law enforcement, and must not commit any additional violations of the Policy,” Judge Robinson added. The league has three days to challenge her ruling.
Meanwhile, Browns co-owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam issued their own statement on Judge Robinson’s ruling. “Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L. Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision,” it said.
Per the statement, the Browns also “empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process. “We know Deshaun is remorseful and that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.”
“Spoke to a GM in the league about this 6-game suspension…just to get more reaction,” tweeted ESPN anchor Dianna Russini. “The league wants to hold their players to high standards. Image is critical to keep growing the female fan base. I’d be surprised if the NFL doesn’t appeal for that reason.”
And the National Organization for Women is pushing for exactly that with its stern response to the Watson ruling. “It is unacceptable, insulting, and dangerous — but not surprising — that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will face merely a 6-game suspension — with no fines — following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by more than two dozen women,” the organization said yesterday in a statement.