In an expected move, the NFL decided on Wednesday to appeal former Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s code of conduct policy.
Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson ruled on Monday that Watson, who is now with the Cleveland Browns, will face a six-game suspension with no additional fines as a result of multiple claims of sexual misconduct by the quarterback with massage therapists. The immediate outcry was that the penalty was too soft.
The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell had until Thursday to appeal Robinson’s decision. The NFL made its expected ruling ahead of schedule on Wednesday afternoon.
“On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent Disciplinary Officer jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, issued her ruling in the Personal Conduct Policy matter regarding Deshaun Watson,” the league said in Wednesday’s released statement. “Under the 2020 NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement (‘CBA’), the factual findings of the Disciplinary Officer are binding and may not be appealed. Judge Robinson found that Mr. Watson violated the NFL’s personal-conduct policy on multiple occasions and suspended him for six games. The CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the discipline imposed by the Disciplinary Officer. Such an appeal must be filed within three days and would be heard by the Commissioner or his designee.
“The NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal.”
Robinson, a former federal judge, released a 16-page report with her findings and it pointed out that the NFL was pushing for Watson to be suspended for at least the entire 2022 season. While she certainly had harsh criticism of Watson’s actions in the report, Robinson wrote that she was “bound by standards of fairness and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated” in making her ruling.
The NFLPA now has two business days from Wednesday to file in writing a response to the NFL’s decision to appeal. An option available to the NFLPA and Watson is to file a lawsuit against the NFL in federal court.
Prior to Robinson’s decision, the NFLPA and Watson announced on Sunday that it would not appeal whatever suspension was handed down by Robinson and encouraged the NFL to take the same position.
But after two days of reading the temperature of many of its fans and the national media, the NFL decided to appeal Watson’s six-game suspension.
According to the CBA, any appeal will be limited to arguments from the evidentiary record that were presented in a three-day hearing in June. The NFL said Wednesday that the appeal process will be expedited, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy also said there is no timeline for Goodell or his designee to make a ruling.
Watson has maintained that he did nothing wrong during the massage therapy sessions. Two grand juries declined to indict Watson on any criminal charges.
Watson, meanwhile, has settled 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him.