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Deadline Nears for Potential Appeal of Deshaun Watson’s Suspension

  • The NFL has until Thursday morning to decide whether to challenge six-game suspension.
  • Roger Goodell, or somebody he designates, could uphold decision or add games to the ban.
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The NFL has until Thursday morning to decide whether to challenge Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension.

Roughly 24 hours before the deadline, sources told Front Office Sports that no decision has been made by the NFL on whether to challenge disciplinary officer and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson’s decision announced on Monday.

The punishment was roundly criticized for its short length even when Robinson found that Watson’s conduct qualified as sexual assault in some of the more than two dozoen women who made allegations against Watson for his conduct during massage sessions.

Either the NFL or NFLPA could challenge Robinson’s ruling, although the union said in a statement before the decision that it’d abide by the punishment.

“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,” the NFLPA said. “This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.”

The NFL has yet to tip its hand on whether it will appeal.

If the NFL appeals, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — or somebody he designates — could uphold Robinson’s decision or add games to the ban. Goodell or his designee could also institute a fine, something that Robinson didn’t do in her decision.

The NFLPA would have two days to submit a response to the appeal if the league challenges Roninson’s decision. There’s no set timetable for Goodell or his designee’s decision if an appeal is lodged, according to the current collective bargaining agreement.

A source close to the NFLPA told FOS that an appeal could prove problematic for the league, especially since the union bargained for changes to how the league handles personal conduct policy cases.

The old system — where Goodell had authority over both the initial decision and the appeal — sparked multiple legal challenges since the first version of the personal conduct policy was introduced in 2007.

The most notable court lawsuits came in the aftermath of then-New England quarterback Tom Brady’s role in Deflategate that resulted in a four-game suspension before the 2015 season and a six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott handed down weeks ahead of the 2017 season.

While a lower court judge initially ruled in Brady’s favor, the federal lawsuits filed by the NFLPA merely delayed the suspension before the courts ultimately ruled that Goodell acted within his authority.

It’s an open question whether the NFLPA would have a better legal argument under the new disciplinary system if the NFL challenges Robinson’s ruling and Goodell or his designee increases Watson’s punishment.

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represented 25 women who sued Watson, is expected to hold a news conference on Thursday. Watson settled 23 of those cases and one case was dropped, leaving one open civil case.

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