Thursday September 28, 2023

NFL To Appeal Deshaun Watson’s 6-Game Suspension

  • The NFL has notified the NFLPA that it intends to appeal Monday's decision.
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, or somebody he designates, could uphold decision or add to suspension.
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports
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The NFL will appeal the six-game suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, setting the stage for an increased punishment — and, possibly, a court battle.

The NFL said in a statement Wednesday that it notified the NFL Players Association of its intention to appeal disciplinary officer and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson’s decision.

“Judge Robinson found that Mr. Watson violated the NFL’s personal-conduct policy on multiple occasions and suspended him for six games,” the NFL said in a statement. “The CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the discipline imposed by the disciplinary officer.”

Robinson’s decision was criticized for its length even as she determined that Watson’s conduct during some of the massage sessions should be classified as sexual assault. Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women.

The league had until Thursday morning to challenge Robinson’s decision announced Monday.

The NFLPA asked the to “stand by” Robinson’s ruling in a statement before the decision was announced. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — or somebody he designates — could chose to Robinson’s decision or add games to the suspension.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported that the NFL plans to seek a one-year suspension or a ban of less of a season and a significant fine. Under both options, the league will mandate Watson undergo treatment.

The NFL initially sought at least a one-year suspension, but reportedly would have considered a 12-game ban and a fine in negotiations with the NFLPA before Robinson’s decision was released.

There’s also the possibility that Goodell or his designee could add a fine, something that wasn’t part of Robinson’s decision. The NFL said in its statement that no determination has been made if Goodell or an arbiter he’s allowed to designate will hear the appeal.

The NFLPA now has until Friday to submit a response to the appeal.

Under terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, there is no set timetable for Goodell or his designee’s decision on the appeal.

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 changes were a major win the union and seemingly made a court fight less likely.

Under the old system where Goodell had authority over both the initial decision and the appeal, the NFLPA mounted multiple legal challenges since the personal conduct policy was first introduced in 2007.

The NFLPA went to federal court after then-New England quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games (Deflategate) before the 2015 season and against after the six-game ban of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (domestic violence allegations) before the 2017 season.

A lower court judge initially ruled in Brady’s favor, but both civil complaints filed by the NFLPA ultimately just delayed the suspensions for each player as the courts upheld Goodell’s authority.

Lawyer Tony Buzbee, who represented 25 women who accused Watson of misconduct in lawsuits filed in Texas, is slated to hold a news conference on Thursday. Watson settled 23 of those lawsuits and one case was dismissed, leaving one open case.

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