Good Thing Deshaun Watson Didn’t Bet On Football, Get Busted With Weed, Or Kneel During The Anthem!
It was an acutely on-brand exhibition of the NFL's priorities.
Just hours after an independent arbitrator ruled he must miss six games over sexual misconduct claims from more than 30 women, Deshaun Watson jogged out onto the Cleveland Browns' training camp field, showered by a chorus of cheers from a celebratory throng of fans.
Watson's alleged sexual harassment and, in some cases, outright sexual assault of of 30-plus women will ultimately cost him just the first six games of the 2022 season, per an NFL disciplinary ruling announced on Monday.
It's just the latest bad look by the NFL as it pertains to women.
In context of some other high-profile disciplinary cases within the league, that bad look is even worse.
Earlier this offseason, the NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the entire upcoming season for placing a $1,500 bet on football. In 2014, wideout Josh Gordon was suspended for an entire season after his second positive test for marijuana — the suspension was later appealed down to 10 games. Gordon was suspended for the entire 2016 season over substance-abuse matters, too.
There's also the national anthem and flag protests in recent years, which didn't result in any outright suspensions but did ultimately blacklist Colin Kaepernick from the league.
Watson's six-game penalty for his rather conspicuous in comparison, especially considering the lurid details some victims have made public.
And then there's this: In 2010, the NFL suspended then-Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games after he was accused of sexual assault by two women. That was a six-game ban resulting from two accusers. Almost three dozen women have come forward to accuse Watson of sexual impropriety, and there is at least some reason to wonder if more accusers will come forward (the New York Times has reported Watson visited 66 different masseuses over a 17-month period).
Watson's penalty was decided by Sue Robinson, a former U.S. District Court judge whom the NFL and NFLPA agreed to utilize as an independent arbitrator for certain kinds of disciplinary cases. This is the first such ruling to be handed down by someone other than the commissioner.
The NFL has three days to decide whether to appeal her decision, which would be an attempt to increase the suspension. The players' union on Sunday, obviously tipped off to what Robinson's decision would be, announced it would not appeal the ruling and urged the NFL to do the same.
Regardless, Watson's case is just the latest instance of the NFL's priorities being laid bare. It's a multibillion-dollar enterprise, and it knows where its bread is buttered.
But given the league's longstanding PR problems with women, Monday's news — and the footage of a smiling Watson being so warmly received by Browns fans in the immediate wake of his suspension being announced — was a new low, even for the NFL.
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