Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will be suspended for the first six games of the upcoming NFL season, a punishment far short of what the league reportedly wanted.
Retired federal judge Sue Robinson, the mutually agreed-upon neutral arbiter who heard his case for the NFL and the NFL Players Association, is expected to officially deliver her decision later today but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that sources had disclosed the six-game ban. Watson is also not expected to face a fine.
Watson had been accused by 24 women of sexual assault and harassment stemming from a series of massage sessions he booked outside of the medical and training protocol of his former team, the Houston Texans. Watson last month settled 20 of those lawsuits and yesterday, his attorney told ESPN that he had settled all but one of the outstanding civil complaints against him.
The NFL had said that it wanted an “indefinite” suspension for Watson, which would in-effect make him ineligible to play until at least the 2023 season. Rules established under the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the union allow either side to appeal the decision, in which case commissioner Roger Goodell could amend Robinson’s ruling; his decision would be final.
But the NFLPA yesterday signaled that it believed Robinson would land far short of an indefinite ban by issuing a statement that said it would accept Robinson’s decision without appeal and urging the NFL to do the same. Watson’s attorneys and the NFLPA previously indicated they would sue the NFL if Robinson’s punishment was too harsh or if the NFL appealed and Goodell imposed longer ban than she did.
Watson hasn’t played in an NFL game since January 2021, his last game as the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans. His relationship with his former team soured and Watson wanted a trade last season. But by October, the allegations against him had surfaced, bringing a criminal investigation—which ended with no charges being filed—and the likelihood of an eventual suspension which made a mid-season trade last season impossible.
He was ultimately traded to the Browns in March after two Texas grand juries declined to indict him. The Browns signed him to a record 10-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $230 million.