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Report: NFL Pushing for Indefinite Suspension of Browns' Deshaun Watson

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJune 25, 2022

Nick Cammett/Getty Images

The NFL is looking to hand down an indefinite suspension lasting no less than one year under the league's personal-conduct policy to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, per Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal.

Multiple women have accused Watson of sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions that occurred in 2020 and 2021. Twenty of the 24 civil lawsuits brought against the quarterback have been settled, though as of June 13, two more were being processed.

Watson has denied the allegations. In addition, two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges in March.

Per Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times, Watson met with at least 66 women for massage appointments over a period of 17 months from 2019 to 2021.

The NYT report stated that the Houston Texans, Watson's old team, provided him with hotel memberships and non-disclosure agreements to use for some of the appointments.

Per Beaton, an answer on Watson's future in the NFL is expected to occur during the week of July 4, if not sooner. An arbitration hearing will occur this upcoming week.

The initial ruling will be made by a neutral arbitrator, former U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson.

Beaton gave more insight into why the NFL is pushing for a lengthy suspension:

"The league's belief that it should institute what is essentially the strictest discipline it can assess is based on its investigation over the last year, the breadth of the allegations against him and some accusations that NFL officials have concluded are particularly damning. While the league's arguments include the broad array of the accusations against Watson—in addition to the 24 lawsuits, other women have accused him of wrongdoing without taking civil action against him—officials have zeroed in on five of the alleged victims whose cases they believe include the strongest evidence.
"The league will focus on those five cases as it argues for the significant ban. Those cases include contemporaneous corroboration, such as text messages, of the women's accounts, two of the people said. League officials believe those allegations in particular are objectively provable and establish a clear and disturbing pattern of behavior from Watson."

Per Beaton, the league will not accept a suspension of less than one year. In addition, an indefinite suspension would give the league the ability to keep Watson away from the game for a longer time if further developments arise, such as an increase in accusations against him.

The NFL and NFLPA have attempted to negotiate Watson's suspension terms, but that has not led to a resolution. In addition, the NFLPA is prepared to fight any decision handed down.

The Cleveland Browns traded for Watson in March and signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract.

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