NFL appeals Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson’s 6-game suspension

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 4:07 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The NFL decided to appeal the decision by arbitrator Sue L. Robinson to suspend Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson for 6 games, according to a release from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

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.

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.

Any response to the appeal must be filed in writing within two business days.

The Browns have no comment at this time, according to Director of Community & Corporate Communications Rob McBurnet.

According to a tweet from Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network, the NFL filing states that the league is seeking a one-year suspension as they did unsuccessfully before Judge Robinson issued the six-game suspension.

The news comes after Robinson, a former U.S. District Court Judge in Delaware, found Watson broke the league’s personal conduct policies in a 16-page ruling released Aug. 1.

Key points in Robinson’s ruling also included no additional fine for Watson, and a recommendation he receives future massage therapy only in “Club-directed sessions and [from] Club-approved massage therapists.”

The NFL and NFLPA mutually selected Robinson to oversee the disciplinary hearing and provide a ruling on whether Watson breached protocols.

Hearings between the NFL and Watson began June 28.

Alongside Texas-based attorney Rusty Hardin, Watson was represented during the hearings by Jeffrey Kessler, known for representing the NFLPA for Tom Brady in the “Deflategate” case, Ray Rice, Ezekiel Elliot and Adrian Peterson, among others who challenged disciplinary rulings from the league in the past.

Twenty-four women, all of whom are represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, previously filed civil lawsuits against Watson, who was traded to the Browns in a blockbuster deal with the Houston Texans in March, for alleged sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.

Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits on June 21. Early Monday, Buzbee confirmed that Watson settled three more cases.

After lengthy and intense negotiations, I can confirm that, late last night, our team resolved three of the four remaining civil cases with Deshaun Watson. We will continue to discuss the remaining case with Watson’s legal team, as appropriate,” the statement said in part. This case started because one woman had the fortitude to step forward and make her voice heard. Her courage inspired many others with the same experience. None of this saga would have occurred without that one brave voice. One person can make a difference.

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy previously said the settlements had “no impact” on the disciplinary process at that time.

The league previously confirmed in reports from USA Today they were looking to indefinitely suspend the QB, which would have given the NFL flexibility in the event more cases surfaced.

Watson, who received a fully-guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract from the Browns, denied all allegations of sexual misconduct during his introductory press conference in Berea on March 25.

Deshaun Watson denies allegations

Jimmy and Dee Haslam, the owners of the Cleveland Browns, released a statement following the suspension of the newly-acquired QB:

“Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L. Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision. We respect Judge Robinson’s decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process. We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.”

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski also defended the QB after the team’s practice on Monday, saying he was confident Watson will continue to make good decisions both on and off the field.

The Browns QB room, with the suspension in play, currently consists of Jacoby Brissett at the helm of the offense, now that former starting QB and 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield is no longer a Brown after being traded to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional 2024 draft pick.

Brissett has previously been named a starting quarterback in the NFL, most prominently after Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck suddenly announced his retirement from the league in 2019.

He threw for 2,942 yards on an 18-4 TD-INT ratio that year.

Watson and the NFLPA released a statement July 31 saying they would not appeal the decision by Robinson.

This story is ongoing and will be updated as more details are released.

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