Roger Goodell still gets final say on Deshaun Watson suspension

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games by a third-party disciplinary officer Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy — but the final decision still rests with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Sue L. Robinson, a former US District Judge, was jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. to oversee the matter. Her decision comes more than a month after a three-day hearing in Delaware in which the NFL advocated an indefinite suspension of at least one full season, while the players’ union reportedly suggested no suspension.

According to a person familiar with the verdict’s language, Robinson notes the six-game ban without pay is the harshest for any player facing allegations of “nonviolent” sexual conduct.

The sides now have three days to write a written appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him to make the final decision. The league’s personal conduct policy allows for a player to be disciplined even in the absence of criminal charges.

Although Watson has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing, he was accused by 25 women of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during massage sessions in 2020 and 2021 while he was quarterback for the Houston Texans. One of those civil suits was dropped and Watson reached confidential settlements with 23 of the remaining 24. The NFL said those settlements would not affect the final disciplinary action.

The women’s allegations include Watson exposing himself during massage sessions and forcing his penis into her hands.

The NFLPA issued a statement Sunday night saying it would not appeal Robinson’s verdict and urged the NFL to promise the same.

The union argued it had provided the league with “the most comprehensive information for any investigation of personal conduct”: “Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be clouded by the whims of the league office.” . Because of this, regardless [Robinson’s] Decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by their decision and we call on the NFL to do the same.”

Watson was acquired by the Browns in March after Cleveland sent three first-round picks to the Texans. He got the richest deal in NFL history: $230 million with a full five-year guarantee.

Under the cloud of allegations, Watson was benched by the Texans for the whole of 2021. Roger Goodell still gets final say on Deshaun Watson suspension

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