Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games on Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the league announced Monday.
The NFL has three days to appeal the decision of retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who presided over the disciplinary hearing and issued the ruling.
“We appreciate Judge Robinson’s diligence and professionalism throughout this process,” according to a statement from the league.
“In light of his findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a decision on next steps.”
Watson signed a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contact with the Browns in March amid allegations of sexual misconduct in massage sessions involving more than 20 women.
NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk reported that the suspension did not include any additional fines.
Watson’s attorney and representatives for the Browns and the National Football League Players Association could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
Watson has already missed a lot of time on the field, not playing for the Houston Texans all last season as his legal challenges unfolded and the team sought to trade him.
Before the suspension was lifted, the National Football League Players Association and Watson said in a joint statement Sunday that they “will stand by its decision” and called on “the NFL to do the same.”
Few, if any, American companies are more closely scrutinized for their handling of incidents of domestic violence by employees than the NFL.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was originally suspended for just two games in 2014 after disturbing surveillance video showed him knocking out his wife-to-be and dragging her body out of court. an elevator.
Rice was eventually suspended indefinitely, but the seemingly light initial discipline forced NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to admit, “I didn’t quite get it. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
Other notable instances of domestic violence suspensions in recent years include: Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (six games in 2017), Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (10 games in 2015) and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (four games in 2018).
The lawyer representing the women accusing Watson of misconduct announced confidential settlements in 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits.
“Today I am announcing that all cases against Deshaun Watson, except for four, have been settled. We are working on paperwork related to those settlements. Once we do, those particular cases will be dismissed,” attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement to NBC News.
“The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We will not comment further on the settlements or these cases.
In her statement, Buzbee paid tribute to complainant Ashley Solis, who was the first to come forward and accuse Watson of sexual misconduct. Solis’ case remains one of four outstanding cases.
Buzbee said of the open cases: “Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story. Her case is not settled and so her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases. in a timely manner, in accordance with the other obligations of the docket and the timetable of the court.
Buzbee declined to speak substantively about any NFL action against Watson.
“I have been asked many times what I think of the NFL process with Deshaun Watson. Although some of my clients have strong feelings about it, I have nothing meaningful to say about this process” , did he declare.
“I said at the beginning that the civil procedure and the disciplinary procedure in the NFL are very different. My role was to advance the case of my clients, in civil court, nothing more.”
Watson’s accusers allege he touched them inappropriately after hiring them as massage therapists and personal trainers.
Two Texas grand juries declined to press charges against Watson in March. District attorneys in both cases did not specify why the grand juries declined to indict.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing.
His lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement in June: “Deshaun Watson did nothing wrong. And as two grand juries have made clear, Deshaun did nothing illegal.
“Deshaun always acknowledged consensual sexual activity with three of the complaining massage therapists after the massages. And Deshaun has repeatedly sworn under oath that he did not force any of his accusers to have sexual contact.
Watson, 26, a native of Gainesville, Georgia, and alumnus of Clemson University, has been in the NFL since 2017. Watson had his best season in 2020 with the Texans, leading the league with 4,823 passing yards. passes and 33 touchdowns.
A six-game ban would make Watson eligible to play Game 7 for the Browns this upcoming season on Oct. 23, when Cleveland is scheduled to visit the Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns, who traded for the beleaguered quarterback in March, could find themselves with journeyman Jacoby Brissett as the starting signal in Watson’s absence.
This is a developing story. Please refresh here for updates.
Associated press contributed.
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