After the two dozen sexual assault lawsuits, the public apology that came way too late, an 11-game suspension, and a $5 million fine, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is back in an NFL uniform. He is set to take the field for the first time in two years when he faces the Houston Texans during week 13 of the NFL season.
While this has a significant impact on the Browns season, who are currently 4-7, I’m more worried about how this will affect Watson’s alleged victims and conflicted football fans who enjoy football, but don’t stand with anything that Watson was accused of doing.
For many NFL fans, the Cleveland Browns have been the laughing stock of football for the last 22 years. When Browns fans think their team is going to be good, they suck. When Browns fans know they’re gonna suck, they suck even more than expected. Like many sports fans, I sometimes find it funny that the Browns will seem to never get it right.
But, something changed when they decided to trade for Watson and sign him to an insane five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract. Suddenly, the Browns became less of a laughing stock and more of a nemesis.
In what world does an employee who was accused by 24 women of sexual assault get a pay raise? The sports world. In professional athletics, the criminal history of a player only matters when he’s not great at his job. The Browns didn’t trade for Watson because they thought he was innocent or he deserved a “second chance.” They acquired him because he’s a good football player. That’s it.
I recall when Watson was deciding what team he wanted to be traded to; he was considering a vast range of teams including the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints, the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons. As a longtime Falcons fan, I was dreading the possibility of Watson coming to my beloved football team. Not only would it make us the most disliked team in the NFL, but it would ruin my fandom of a team I grew up loving and watching.
Cheering for a team that thought it would be okay to sign a player who negatively affected the lives of multiple women didn’t sit well with my spirit. So, for as long as Watson is playing for the Browns, I’ll be cheering for their downfall.