Browns QB Deshaun Watson Suspended for 'Egregious' Conduct

He's out for 6 games and banned from using non-club-directed massage therapy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 1, 2022 8:34 AM CDT
Updated Aug 1, 2022 4:51 PM CDT
Browns QB Deshaun Watson Suspended for 6 Games
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass during practice, May 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. The NFL suspended Watson for six games on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 for violating its personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women in Texas.   (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

(Newser) This story has been updated with Robinson's remarks. Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games Monday after being accused by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments, in what a disciplinary officer said was behavior "more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL," the AP reports. Watson, who played for four seasons with Houston before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage therapy appointments in 2020 and 2021. The NFL has three days to appeal the decision by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, while the players' association has said it will abide by the decision. If either side appeals, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates will make the decision.

"Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL,” Robinson wrote in the conclusion to her 16-page report. Even though the only discipline in the collective bargaining agreement is a fine or suspension, Robinson mandated as condition of reinstatement that Watson should "limit his massage therapy to Club-directed sessions and Club-approved massage therapists" for the rest of his career. She added that Watson must have "no adverse involvement with law enforcement and must not commit any additional violations" of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The league had pushed for an indefinite suspension of at least one year and at least a $5 million fine for the 26-year-old Watson during a three-day hearing before Robinson in June. Watson can continue to practice and play in exhibition games before his suspension begins the first week of the regular season. He would be eligible to return on Oct. 23 when the Browns play at Baltimore. After learning the ruling was imminent, the NFL Players Association issued a joint statement with Watson on Sunday night, saying they will not appeal Robinson’s ruling and urged the league to follow suit. "Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office" the union said in a statement.

While the NFL pushed for a severe penalty, the union had argued Watson shouldn’t be punished at all because he was not convicted of any crime. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints brought by 10 of the women. This was the first case for Robinson, a former US district judge who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the union to handle player misconduct—a role previously held by Goodell. In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis, or kissing them against their will. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex. Watson has denied all wrongdoing, insisting any sexual activity with three of the women was consensual. (Read more Deshaun Watson stories.)

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