NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says evidence calls for at least full-year suspension for Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the league is seeking a tougher sentence for Deshaun Watson because the quarterback’s actions were “egregious” and “predatory behavior.”

Last week, the NFL formally appealed Watson’s six-game suspension, which was imposed by NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue. L Robinson earlier this month. At a league meeting called Tuesday to formally approve the Denver Broncos’ new ownership group, Goodell was asked why the NFL had appealed Robinson’s decision and requested a minimum-year ban for the Cleveland Browns quarterback.

“We saw the evidence, she was very clear on the evidence, she reinforced the evidence,” Goodell said. “There were several violations that were egregious and it was predatory behavior.”

Last week, the NFL appointed Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, to hear the appeal of Watson’s suspension for violations of the NFL’s personal conduct guidelines. Goodell said Tuesday he didn’t know when Harvey would make a decision.

Also on Tuesday, Goodell addressed recent sanctions against the Miami Dolphins, team owner Stephen Ross and vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal, which include the removal of several draft picks for the team, including the 2023 first-round draft pick, as well as fines for both Ross ($1.5 million) and Beal ($500,000).

After a six-month investigation, the league announced last week that the Dolphins violated the anti-tampering policy three times from 2019 to 2022 in talks with quarterback Tom Brady and then-New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton’s agent.

However, the NFL found no evidence that the team intentionally lost games in the 2019 season. In February, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores said in his lawsuit alleging racism in the league’s hiring practices that Ross tried to incite him to “tank” or intentionally lose games soon after he was hired in 2019, with Ross Flores reportedly offered $100,000 for each loss this season.

Goodell said Tuesday he specifically addressed the Dolphins’ sanctions and investigation with owners in the meeting after the Broncos’ new ownership group was officially approved.

“Well, several things, the integrity of the game is critical,” Goodell said. “I think the results are very clear … and while there clearly hasn’t been any tanking here, we all have to understand our words and actions, and we have to understand the implications and we have to be careful.”

Robinson issued the six-game ban in a 16-page report, writing that “the NFL bore its burden of proving, by preponderance of evidence, that Mr. Watson was involved in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists who were identified in the report were involved.”

She also said in the report Watson engaged in conduct that “poses a real threat to the safety and well-being of another person and conduct that undermines or threatens the integrity of the NFL.”

Robinson wrote that the NFL recommended that Watson be suspended for the entirety of the 2022 regular season and postseason.

Relying on precedent, Robinson attempted to distinguish between violent and non-violent sexual behavior. Robinson concluded that Watson’s behavior “does not fall into the category of violent behavior that would require a minimum six-game suspension,” which the league considers “by far the most commonly inflicted discipline for domestic or gender-based violence and sexual conduct.” “ had stipulated.

Robinson also said Watson’s “predatory behavior casts ‘a negative light on the league and its players'”.

Watson has been accused of sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. The encounters alleged in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021 while Watson was with the Houston 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. In June, Watson settled 20 of the remaining 24 lawsuits. He later agreed to settle three of the remaining four.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34375432/roger-goodell-says-evidence-calls-least-full-year-suspension-cleveland-browns-qb-deshaun-watson NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says evidence calls for at least full-year suspension for Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson

Emma Bowman

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