The NFL really stepped in it with the Deshaun Watson ruling.
Despite a judge ruling that Deshaun Watson committed acts of sexual assault and called his behavior predatory, the Cleveland Browns will only be without Watson for six games. That’s what Sue L. Robinson suggested in her ruling, a recommendation that was destroyed by 31 of 32 fan bases who were mad that he only got six games and a fine of zero dollars. The only fan base who thought it was “fair” were Browns fans.
Even if the suspension isn’t challenged by the NFL, and considering the combined outrage it seems unlikely they’d stand pat, the ruling wasn’t a win for Watson. On the contrary, it was quite damning. Robinson ruled that Watson’s behavior was in fact predatory, stating (via ESPN) that Waton’s “…predatory conduct cast a negative light on the League and its players.”
To further hit home that everyone is aware of his issues, she also ruled that Watson could not see any massage therapists outside of the employment of the Cleveland Browns for the rest of his career.
Now, to be clear, this won’t be enforced. This is basically put into place so that if he should ever have a new allegation involving another therapist Watson, that would be it. No more proof need. This also puts to rest is those who say Watson “didn’t do anything” or “it was a money grab”. If he hadn’t done anything that he was accused of, he wouldn’t have been labeled as such or suspended. So those arguments are dead.
He may not have been brought in front of a jury but his behavior has been ruled on.
The fallout from the Deshaun Watson ruling has been bizarre, to say the least
The discourse around this is fascinating to see unfold. Just about every sports talk host in Cleveland has come up with one hackneyed reason or another why it would “look bad” for the NFL to challenge this ruling. One radio host even said it would be insulting to women if the NFL overruled a female judge.
The mental gymnastics has been incredible.
The rest of the NFL media is not as ok with things. Many are demanding that the NFL intervene and a lot of the female voices around the NFL are unhappy with the ruling. So if you were among those confused that she would deem Watson as having committed non-violent sexual assault (as defined by the NFL), and you were confused on that, you weren’t alone. Many women who spoke out on the issue pointed out that assault by definition is violent.
…the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the Report. Mr. Watson violated the Policy in this regard.
It’s important to note that Roger Goddell and the NFL have not punished or recommended punishment against Watson, Robinson was/is working as an independent arbiter. Her ruling is based solely on how the NFL’s policy reads legally, and nothing more.
That’s why I think the NFL will look to expand the punishment further, as fans are rightfully upset over the slap on the wrist Waston got, especially with the language Robinson used in evaluating his behavior. She admits he’s a problem but is leaning on past “non-violent” punishments for her ruling. Considering how she referred to Watson’s behavior as “predatory” and having “engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL)”, he isn’t innocent and the punishment should have reflected that.
As many, including Kyle Brandt, pointed out, Ben Roethlisberger got six games for one allegation, while Watson got six games for 24-plus. It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter that Robinson only heard four or five of the cases. There is a human element in this case and if you’re willing to go as far as to say that he showed “predatory behavior” and that he “engaged in sexual assault”, and you still only give him six games, then you’ve truly lost the plot.