If Deshaun Watson is hit with a lengthy suspension from the NFL over the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him, he literally won’t take it sitting down.
The embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback plans to sue the league with the help of the NFL Players Association, in the event the NFL gets its wish of a minimum one-year ban, Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson tweeted on Monday.
Watson faces a potential suspension following his settlement with all but two of the female massage therapists who accused him in civil lawsuits in Texas of exposing himself, masturbating, ejaculating and other unwanted sexual activity during treatments he received while he was on the Houston Texans’ roster. (The Texans have also settled with some 30 women over allegations that the team enabled Watson’s behavior, but so far there’s no public indication that the NFL is considering punishing the team).
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The NFL and the NFLPA, football’s players’ union, agreed in 2020 to a new procedure by which players, who are contract employees of their teams, can be disciplined for off-field infractions by the league. Under the new agreement, Watson, the union and the NFL agreed to have their cases heard by retired federal judge Sue Robinson, who is expected to issue a ruling sometime before the start of the NFL season in September.
But the NFL can appeal if Robinson does anything besides give Watson no suspension at all. In the event that happens, the game is rigged because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is the one making the final decision, thus, Watson’s preparation to head to federal court.
He wouldn’t be the first player to sue the NFL over discipline.
Under a previous iteration of the league’s disciplinary policy, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acted as de facto judge and jury, with final say on any suspensions with no independent arbitrator to give a ruling. Under the old policy, star quarterbacks Tom Brady (Deflategate) and Ben Roethlisberger (sexual assault accusations) both served significant suspensions handed down by Goodell; Roethlisberger appealed a six-game suspension and had it reduced to four games. Brady, foreshadowing Watson’s potential move, sued the NFL in federal court.
He initially won his case, but it was subsequently overturned by a judge and Brady sat out for the first four games of the 2016 season.