The NFL and NFL Players Association on Thursday reached a settlement in the Deshaun Watson disciplinary matter, agreeing that the Cleveland Browns quarterback will serve an 11-game suspension after being accused of sexual misconduct during massage sessions by more than two dozen women was accused, a league source told ESPN.
Watson will also pay a $5 million fine, the source said. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that fine will go to charity.
The deal has not been signed but agreed upon, a source told Schefter.
“I am grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and very grateful for the tremendous support I have received during my short tenure with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a statement released by the Browns. “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take responsibility for the decisions I’ve made. My focus going forward is to work to become the best version of myself on and off the field, and to support my teammates as much as I can while I’m no longer on the team. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me in Cleveland.”
Watson will be available again for the Browns in Week 13 when Cleveland takes on his old team, the Houston Texans, on the road.
The settlement between the two sides ushers in a ruling by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, whom Commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed to oversee the NFL’s appeal of Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson’s decision to sentence Watson to six block games.
Robinson, an independent umpire appointed jointly by the league and players’ union, originally ruled on August 1 that Watson would serve a six-game suspension but not a fine for violating the league’s personal conduct guidelines, in a 16 -side report that “the NFL bore its burden of establishing, by preponderance of evidence, that Mr. Watson was involved in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the report.”
Goodell explained the league’s decision to appeal Robinson’s verdict, saying the evidence required at least a year’s suspension.
“As we previously shared, Deshaun and its representatives have adhered to the NFL and NFLPA structure and are awaiting a final decision, and we have respected the process,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “Now that a discipline decision has been made, we understand this is a real opportunity to create meaningful change, and we are committed to investing in programs in Northeast Ohio that advance our youth in awareness, understanding and ahead educating all about prevention of sexual misconduct and the many underlying causes of such behavior. Ever since Deshaun entered our building he has been a distinguished member of our organization and has worked with a real dedication to himself on and off the field his focus on earning the trust of our community.”
Watson has been accused of sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage therapy sessions in lawsuits filed by 25 women. The actions alleged in the lawsuits took place from March 2020 to March 2021 while Watson was a member of the Texans. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped after a judge ruled in April 2021 that plaintiffs would have to amend their filings to disclose their names. Two other women filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him.
Watson has settled or agreed to settle all but one of the remaining pending claims. In July, the Texans reached settlements with 30 women who made or were willing to make claims against the NFL organization for their alleged “enabling” of Watson’s conduct.
Although two Texas grand juries earlier this year declined to seek criminal charges against Watson, the NFL had been investigating since 2021 whether he violated its personal conduct policy. The league interviewed Watson for several days earlier this summer. NFL investigators also spoke to several of the women.
In her report, which concluded that Watson had violated the personal conduct policy with “egregious” and “predatory” behavior, Robinson noted that an aggravating factor in her decision to ban Watson for six games was his “lack of expressed remorse” was.
After Watson previously denied any wrongdoing and said he didn’t “regret” any of his actions during the massage sessions, Watson publicly apologized to “all the women that I’ve influenced” on Aug. 12, ahead of Cleveland’s preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars started.
Watson has not spoken to reporters since the training camp began.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round draft picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract, which was the richest deal in NFL history for any player.
Watson’s contract with the Browns guarantees him a league-record $230 million, with base salary rising to $46 million in 2023 and a $44.965 million signing bonus.
However, because Cleveland structured his contract to include a base salary of just $1.035 million for 2022, Watson would only lose $57,500 per suspended game, not including the $5 million fine imposed in the settlement.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said at the start of camp that Jacoby Brissett would become a Cleveland starter should Watson be suspended and recently hinted he was “very impressed” with Brissett so far.
“Very comfortable with him,” said Stefanski. “I think he has a very good understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively.”
Although a backup for much of his career, Brissett has 37 starts with a 14-23 record.
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https://6abc.com/deshaun-watson-cleveland-browns-nfl-suspension-houston-texans/12138286/ Deshaun Watson suspended 11 games and fined $5M after settlement between NFL and NFLPA, source tells ESPN