Transfer fumble: Takeaways from Deshaun Watson’s suspension

Note to readers: This story contains graphic depictions of sexual assault allegations.

How much more did the disciplinary officer need to hear?

Sue L. Robinson, a former U.S. District Judge, believed the NFL’s case against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. She cited Watson’s lack of remorse. She called his behavior “more egregious than any previously reviewed by the NFL” and acknowledged that those massage therapists had been psychologically damaged by the star quarterback.

And the penalty offered by Robinson pronounced Monday morning?

A six-game suspension.

So Watson gets the equivalent of a sprained high ankle, will be in the field before midseason, losing less than $400,000 in salary — the kind of money you’d find in the couch cushions of a a player with a guaranteed contract of $230 million.

The NFL wanted a decision they wouldn’t have to appeal. He wanted this new system to work, with a disciplinary officer who would hear these cases and make decisions that the league and the NFL Players Assn. could stomach. But it was a fumble on the opening transfer.

More … than two dozen women filed civil lawsuits accusing Watson of sexual misconduct as he scoured massage therapists – who allegedly worked with 60 people over a 15-month period – and acted in an undeniably creepy manner.

Watson’s alleged pattern: He contacted therapists on Instagram, identified himself as an NFL quarterback and said he urgently wanted to schedule a massage for that day. I didn’t want a professional setting and rather wanted something private. I didn’t care whether the women were experienced or even licensed therapists.

According to his accusers, he would send text messages to make sure the therapists were comfortable massaging certain parts of his body, in particular his lower back, glutes, abs and groin. He asked women to use a towel to cover him, instead of the usual sheet, and often provided his own towel – little more than a washcloth.

In the heartbreaking words of Robinson: “When he rolled over onto his back, it is alleged that Mr. Watson exposed his erect penis and intentionally contacted the hands and arms of the therapists multiple times with his erect penis. . One of the therapists alleges that Mr Watson not only contacted his arm several times, but he ejaculated on his arm.

Robinson notes, “There is no allegation that Mr. Watson exerted any force on any of the therapists. However, what is alleged is very damning.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson warms up before training camp on Thursday.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson warms up before training camp on Thursday.

(Nick Cammett/Associated Press)

Consider some of the suspensions from recent years. Atlanta wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended for at least a year after betting on NFL games while away from the team during the 2021 season. Tight end Darren Waller, then with Baltimore, was suspended for a year after multiple substance abuse policy violations. Ditto for former Denver running back Travis Henry and Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon.

On the other hand, barring a likely call from the NFL, Watson will have fresh legs in time to make a midseason run.

Watson was never charged and denied any wrongdoing. While it’s important to note, Monday’s development is that Robinson has sided with the league.

She writes that the NFL “bears its burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the report. Discipline was therefore issued in this spirit.

In her decision, Robinson cites what she calls mitigating factors. She refers to Watson as a first offender – most of those who don’t have 25 separate lawsuits filed against them – and writes that he “had an excellent reputation in his community prior to these events”. Well, what does that mean? A lot of people have great reputations until people find out what they’ve been up to. This are you carrying weight?

Revealing his discipline, Robinson writes that the six games represent “the most significant punishment ever given to an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct.” Strange state. Hopefully there isn’t a large sample size.

And that’s perhaps the weirdest part. Robinson writes that going forward, it is appropriate for Watson to limit his massage therapists to those provided by the team instead of sourcing them himself.

It’s like she’s saying she doesn’t believe it won’t happen again.

Surely the NFL didn’t want to appeal that decision and send it back to Commissioner Roger Goodell (or someone he designates) to decide. But after these logical world record leaps, the league must throw a challenge flag. Or be a spectator of a ruinous precedent.