Roger Goodell still has the final say on Deshaun Watson’s suspension

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson received a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy in a decision issued Monday by a third-party disciplinary officer – but the final decision still rests with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson was jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Assn. to monitor the case. His decision comes more than a month after a three-day hearing in Delaware in which the NFL argued for an indefinite suspension of at least a full season, despite the players’ union reportedly offering no suspension.

According to someone familiar with the language of the decision, Robinson notes that the six-game suspension without pay is the most severe for any player charged with “non-violent” sexual conduct.

The parties now have three days to file a written appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, or a person he designates, for the final decision. The league’s personal conduct policy allows a player to be disciplined even if there are no criminal charges.

Although Watson has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, he was accused by 25 women of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in 2020 and 2021 while serving as quarterback for the Houston Texans. One of these civil cases was dropped and Watson entered into confidential agreements with 23 of the remaining 24. The NFL said these regulations would have no impact on ultimate disciplinary action.

Among the women’s allegations are that Watson exposed himself during massage sessions and forced his penis into their hands.

The NFLPA issued a statement Sunday night saying it would not appeal Robinson’s decision and urged the NFL to promise the same.

Arguing that it has provided the league with “the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct investigation”, the union said: “Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office.Therefore, regardless of [Robinson’s] decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by his decision and we call on the NFL to do the same.

Watson was acquired by the Browns in March after Cleveland sent three first-round picks to the Texans. I got the richest contract in NFL history: $230 million fully guaranteed over five years.

Under the cloud of accusations, Watson was benched by the Texans for all of 2021.