NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Peter C. Harvey, former New Jersey attorney general, to hear the appeal of Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension.
ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio first reported Goodell wouldn't oversee the appeal.
The collective bargaining agreement entitles Goodell or a person he selects to evaluate further action after an independent disciplinary officer deems a suspension to be worthy for violations of the personal conduct policy. The MMQB's Albert Breer speculated on why the commissioner isn't exercising that right in this case:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will pick someone outside the league office to hear the Deshaun Watson appeal, as <a href="https://twitter.com/ProFootballTalk?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProFootballTalk</a> said. Why? My opinion …<br><br>1) Gives the NFL a better shot at avoiding court.<br><br>2) Better maintains integrity of the process they negotiated with the PA.
Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA, handed down a six-game ban for the Cleveland Browns quarterback. Her ruling was met with criticism from some who argued the punishment was too light given the volume of allegations.
Watson has settled 20 and agreed to settle three more of the 24 civil lawsuits filed against him by women accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct during massage therapy sessions. The Houston Texans also settled with 30 women who filed lawsuits or planned to file suits with allegations that the team enabled Watson's behavior.
The New York Times' Jenny Vrentas found that Watson booked massage appointments with at least 66 different women during the period between fall 2019 and spring 2021.
Vrentas also reported that during a deposition, Watson said he was given a non-disclosure agreement by the Texans' head of security, Brent Naccara, to take to massage appointments. The team also provided Watson with a membership to a Houston hotel and fitness club where he held some of his massage appointments.
Robinson's conclusion that Watson committed "non-violent" sexual misconduct was one of the bigger points of contention.
"It is undisputed that Mr. Watson's conduct does not fall into the category of violent conduct that would require the minimum six-game suspension," Robinson wrote in her report.
The NFL filed its appeal of Watson's suspension Wednesday. ESPN's Jake Trotter and CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones reported the league is looking to levy an indefinite ban of at least one year on the three-time Pro Bowler.
Dan Graziano of ESPN reported Sunday that the league was prepared to settle for a 12-game suspension and a "heavy fine" of around $8 million.
CBS Sports HQ's Josina Anderson reported Thursday that Watson's representatives and the NFL Players Association haven't finalized their next step following the NFL's appeal. They could file suit in federal court.
After Robinson issued her ruling, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam issued a statement saying Watson was "remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many."
However, ESPN's Dianna Russini reported Wednesday that Watson's representatives were "unhappy" with the initial six-game suspension and "continue to share that Watson did not do anything wrong."