NFL shouldn’t ‘back down’ over Deshaun Watson’s one-year suspension
As former federal judge Sue Robinson weighs the president’s evidence in the Deshaun Watson case, the independent arbitrator hopes the NFL and NFL Players Association will settle before issuing a ruling. If that doesn’t happen, the NFL could be heading for an ugly legal battle.
Watson is represented by the NFLPA before Robinson, who must decide whether or not he violated the personal conduct policy. Accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct, the Cleveland Browns quarterback has settled all but four civil lawsuits against him.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell no longer has unilateral authority to sanction violations of the league’s personal conduct policy. Watson is the first player to go through the appeal process. which came only after the failure of settlement negotiations between the two parties.
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Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson noted this week that Sue Robinson would be reluctant to issue a decision in an effort to give the NFL and NFLPA more time to reach a settlement. For now, however, that seems unlikely to happen.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote Monday that he does not expect a settlement to occur. The main reason is his belief that the league won’t back down from its insistence that Watson serve a one-year suspension and the NFLPA won’t agree to that.
Once Robinson makes a decision, the NFL faces its crucial first decision. If the independent arbitrator decides there is only enough evidence for Watson to serve a four-game suspension, the league can appeal the decision to Goodell. At this point, the NFL commissioner could issue a one-year ban.
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If that happens, however, the NFLPA intends to challenge that decision with the defense that the NFL owners received no punishment for their misconduct off the field. Watson’s defense would also argue that a grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges and that a former federal judge ruled against a one-year suspension.
It is precisely the legal battle and the dramatic scenario that the NFL does not want to live. Watson’s appeal would also mean he could play until a decision is made in his federal appeal. All of this would apparently make a settlement more attractive to the NFL, but the public reaction to Watson receiving a shorter suspension than Calvin Ridley could see the league fight to the bitter end.