NFL appeals six-game suspension of Browns' Watson

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 04 2022 09:21 AM

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson walks off the field after failing to get a first down against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of their AFC Divisional round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, 12 January 2020. File photo. Larry W. Smith, EPA-EFE.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson walks off the field after failing to get a first down against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of their AFC Divisional round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, 12 January 2020. File photo. Larry W. Smith, EPA-EFE.

NEW YORK -- The NFL has appealed the six-game suspension meted out to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

The NFL had argued for an indefinite suspension lasting at least one full season for Watson, who was accused of sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women.

No criminal charges were brought against Watson, who has denied wrongdoing.

NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who was appointed by both the league and the NFL Players' Association, found after an investigation that the six-game penalty was appropriate.

Robinson issued a 15-page finding on Monday after hearing arguments in June from the league, the union and Watson's lawyers on five specific cases presented by the NFL.

The incidents took place between March 2020 and March 2021 while Watson was with the Houston Texans.

Robinson found that Watson's "pattern of behavior was egregious," but that the cases presented for her review involved "nonviolent sexual conduct" and didn't merit a harsher penalty than a six-game ban.

In a statement on Wednesday, the league said it had notified the NFLPA that it would appeal and then filed its brief on Wednesday afternoon.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal.

"Under the 2020 NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement ('CBA'), the factual findings of the Disciplinary Officer are binding and may not be appealed," the league noted in a statement.

"Judge Robinson found that Mr. Watson violated the NFL's personal-conduct policy on multiple occasions and suspended him for six games.

"The CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the discipline imposed by the Disciplinary Officer."

The players' union has two business days to respond to the appeal, after which Goodell or the person he designates to hear the appeal will respond with a written decision.

An indefinite suspension would require Watson to apply for reinstatement before he resumes his career. Watson and the NFLPA refused that offer prior to the hearing before Robinson.

The NFL's appeal means continued uncertainty for the Browns, who in March signed Watson to a record five-year guaranteed deal worth $230 million knowing he faced the possibility of a long ban to start the 2022 season.

Watson led the NFL in 2020 with 4,823 passing yards but missed the entire 2021 season under the "non-injury/personal matter" category of the league's collective bargaining agreement.

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