Quarterback Deshaun Watson was handed a six-game suspension for the 2022 season, his first with the Cleveland Browns.
The passer will lose out on $345K in his shiny new deal while also having to sit on the sidelines to await his debut with a new organization.
Despite the suspension, though, many believed it would be much worse.
In fact, the NFL itself was pushing for a one-year ban as they looked to make an example out of the quarterback in its stance on sexual misconduct. It is said that the league pushed for that lengthy ban in the latest hearing, but one key component of the case kept the judge from ruling in their favor.
The 16-page ruling has been released to the public, and it appears that judge Robinson took the fact that the acts were non-violent into account.
One key aspect led to minimal punishment in Deshaun Watson suspension
The judge ruled that Watson had violated three aspects of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. Those included “(1) sexual assault; (2) conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and (3) conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”
On the first basis, the court ruled “that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists,” meaning he violated the NFL policy. She also concluded “that Mr. Watson’s conduct posed a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person,” another policy violation.
The quarterback landed the trifecta as the judge also ruled that “Mr. Watson’s predatory conduct cast ‘a negative light on the League and its players,’ sufficient proof that he violated this provision of the Policy.”
Why, then, was the punishment so small if the NFL had seemingly proven its case while asking for a year-long ban?
The court took prior NFL punishment into account
Judge Robinson said that the non-violent aspects of the Deshaun Watson case did not warrant at year-long suspension, at least based on the league’s handling of prior instances.
“It is undisputed that Mr. Watson’s conduct does not fall into the category of violent [which would require a minimum 6-game suspension]… It likewise is undisputed that prior cases involving non-violent sexual assault have resulted in discipline far less severe than what the NFL proposes here, with the most severe penalty being a 3-game suspension for a player who had been previously warned about his conduct.
“While it may be entirely appropriate to more severely discipline players for non-violent sexual conduct, I do not believe it is appropriate to do so without notice of the extraordinary change this position portends for the NFL and its players.”
The judge notes that the most severe punishment the NFL has handed down on a non-violent sexual situation was three games, and that was to a player that had been warned of his behavior. Watson is a first-time offender.
With the standard having been set, Judge Robinson did not see fit for the NFL to so quickly change its policy to make an example out of Watson.
She also noted that restitution had been paid, as he sat out the 2021 season.
So, though Robinson agrees that “Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL,” ultimately, she couldn’t agree with the year-long sentence.
The NFL will have three days to review and make an appeal, if they so choose.
Fans were not happy with the Deshaun Watson suspension
After reading the ruling, many fans were not happy about the Deshaun Watson suspension. Though the NFL has been more lenient on non-violent offenders in the past, many believed that there should’ve been an exception.
So she’s basically not making punishment harsher because in past NFL was more lenient…..isn’t that why People said they shouldn’t handle it
— Bryan Foti (@bfoti21) August 1, 2022
This is the first point that makes some sense for as short as the puniahment is. The judge looked at this as a collective bargaining issue as much as a behavioral one. One of those things where its probably legally right if it just feels wrong.
— Jason from NY in NC (@normaliswear) August 1, 2022
Outrageous and unacceptable. NFL needs to appeal for a full season suspension. Did they learn nothing from the Ray Rice situation?
— lou tibbs (@LouisTibbs) August 1, 2022
So, the NFL was trying to do the right thing and make an example that sexual assault is bad, and a judge was like, "meh, that's kind of harsh?" https://t.co/NzYsLQMl2l
— Mike Kearney (@MKPGH) August 1, 2022
I don't think anyone should need fair notice to not sexually assault people
— Jason Greenwood (@Jbgreenwood86) August 1, 2022