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Could Deshaun Watson’s case go to federal court now that the NFL has appealed his suspension?

AS USA logo AS USA 8/3/2022 Paul Rudder
Could Deshaun Watson’s case go to federal court now that the NFL has appealed his suspension? © Nick Cammett (AFP) Could Deshaun Watson’s case go to federal court now that the NFL has appealed his suspension?

Following the verdict in the case of the QB, the NFL has now made it clear that it intends to appeal the decision.

NFL to appeal Deshaun Watson’s suspension

According to reports on Wednesday, the NFL will appeal Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension. Given that the league, had previously called for Watson to receive an indefinite ban of at least one year, the move is very much in keeping with its position. As per reports, the NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s decision to suspend Watson for only six games. It is understood, that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who hears the appeal. In accordance with the league’s CBA, Goodell can in fact bear witness to the appeal himself if he so chooses. As things stand, the NFLPA now has two business days to file a formal response to the appeal in writing.

Battle lines drawn between NFL and NFLPA

What’s clear in this situation is that we’re just getting started. With the NFL determined to seek out an indefinite suspension of at least one year, the line has been drawn in the sand. A line that the NFLPA seems set to cross. Prior to the announcement of Watson’s suspension, reports indicated that the NFLPA was prepared to sue the NFL in federal court if it chose to appeal the decision on Watson’s fate. With things being what they are, it would be safe to assume this isn’t going to end quietly.

For his part, Watson was facing some 24 civil lawsuits that accused him of sexual misconduct, during massage sessions while he was on the roster of the Houston Texans. Of that number, Watson has since settled 23 with three of them occurring as recently as Monday - the same day as Watson’s ruling. The Browns player has maintained his innocence throughout and incidentally, did not face any criminal charges from two Texas grand juries in front of whom he had to sit.

What did the NFL say about Deshaun Watson’s suspension?

In its statement, the NFL cited allowances in the CBA as part of the intention to contest the decision. “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,” advised the statement.v

“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.”

The Cleveland Browns weigh in on Deshaun Watson’s suspension

With the news coming on Monday morning, the Browns were already out on the training field. Watson himself gave no statement regarding his suspension, but Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslem did not too long after news of their player’s suspension broke. “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.”

With regards to what happens now, assuming Judge Robinson’s decision stands, the Browns will be without Watson’s services for the first six games of the next campaign. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is slated to step into the void in the interim. As for how this all ends, though it may not be clear if the league can actually see Watson’s suspension increased through appeal, one can expect things to get heated before this all wraps up.


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