Quarterback Deshaun Watson settled claims by 23 women alleging sexual misconduct. The Houston Texans settled with 30 women for claims against Watson. And the first thought is he received a wrist-slap of a six-game suspension considering comparative penalties.
The accompanying thought remains: Thank goodness the Miami Dolphins didn’t trade for Watson’s creepy story. Thanks all the lucky stars a couple of women held out from settling with him, or he would have been traded to the Dolphins last November, as Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, has said.
What’s the saying about the deals you don’t make are the best ones? Cleveland’s daily conversation would be our disturbing mess.
This upbeat Dolphins training camp would be dragged in mud of protests, debates, arguments and general morality wars. That’s not even getting into the past several months before Monday’s decision, when the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said how the six-game suspension, “dangerously mirrors the flaws in our justice system and sends a grave message to our communities.”
The NFL’s arbiter, former judge Sue L. Robinson, explained that Watson’s “pattern of behavior was egregious,” but his behavior involved, “nonviolent sexual conduct.” Hmm. Assault and harassment don’t count without a dash of violence?
Watson wasn’t charged with any crime. Let’s underline that in his defense. Robinson also heard more evidence that any of us on the outside. But her decision was based on just four cases brought by the NFL. The fifth case, she said, was thrown out because the NFL didn’t interview the woman. Huh?
It’s not just the punishment itself that’s an issue with Watson’s ruling, but the staggering inconsistency involving NFL players. Dallas running back Ezekel Elliott and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to name two, received a six-game suspension for one sexual assault that didn’t move forward in the legal arena.
You can poke more fun at these penalties considering: Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games for taking a little air out of footballs; receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended 17 games for betting $1,500 on his own team when he was out injured, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins will serve the same six games this year as Watson after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The suspension process has changed this year. Instead of Commissioner Roger Goodell meting out sentences, there’s now the independent arbiter ruling. The players’ union and NFL have the right to appeal, with Goodell being the final judge. Maybe he will be here, too.
As is, Watson is penalized the same as teammate Myles Garrett for hitting an opponent with a helmet. He wasn’t fined a penny, either, while players who line up with mismatched socks or cleats not passed by league protocol get fined.
Cleveland gave Watson a $256 million contract, written to protect his money from any coming suspension. He’ll lose $345,000 — but keep his $45 million signing bonus.
All that leaves room for Goodell to impose a fine, keep the six-game penalty and say he did all he could under the system. Of course, if you’re looking into choreographed conspiracy, look at Cleveland’s opening six games: at Carolina, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, Los Angeles Chargers and New England.
Two road games. Two opponents with projected winning records. That’s about as light as you can make a schedule. Coincidence.
Robinson’s ruling imposed one harsh penalty on Watson: He has to work with only the team’s massage therapists. All of the women alleging his sexual misconduct were hired independently by Watson. A New York Times report said he hired 66 female massages therapists over a 17-month period.
Watson’s sheer number of allegations are the story here at a time the NFL is trying to polish up its image among women for business reasons. There’s a lot to polish.
Every team has brushed with some sort of sexual or domestic assault. Tyreek Hill, for instance, said the other day he shouldn’t have been a fifth-round pick. The reason, NFL insiders have said, was due in part to a domestic issue.
There are three days now for the NFL to appeal Watson’s decision and push it back to Goodell. Maybe that happens. As things stands, Watson is the face of the Browns after six games, meaning it’s all systems go for his Nov. 13 game against the Dolphins team fortunate not to have him.