The NFL will appeal the decision of retired judge Sue Robinson who ruled that Watson be suspended for six games for sexual assault, posing a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person, and conduct that undermines, or puts at risk, the integrity of the NFL.
In a 16-page decision document, Robinson explained the investigation into Watson began when a woman alleged in a civil lawsuit in March 2021 that “Watson engaged in lewd and indecent sexual behavior during a private massage she provided.”
“A total of 23 other lawsuits having similar allegations were eventually filed against Mr. Watson. The NFL opened an investigation into Mr. Watson’s conduct upon learning of the first lawsuit,” Robinson detailed.
Robinson then went on to explain her decision, “The NFL may be a ‘forward-facing’ organization, but it is not necessarily a forwardlooking one. Just as the NFL responded to violent conduct after a public outcry, so it seems the NFL is responding to yet another public outcry about Mr. Watson’s conduct. At least in the former situation, the Policy was changed and applied proactively. Here, the NFL is attempting to impose a more dramatic shift in its culture without the benefit of fair notice to – and consistency of consequence for – those in the NFL subject to the Policy.”
She continued, “Looking at the record when compared to the relevant precedent, and looking forward to how this disciplinary determination might be used in the future, I find the most appropriate landing place to be as follows: Mr. Watson is hereby suspended for six (6) regular-season games without pay. Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, 52 Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed the NFL will be appealing the decision. He tweeted, “The NFL is appealing the Deshaun Watson 6-game suspension.”
Rapoport then shared a press notice from NFL PR’s Brian McCarthy that declared, “On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent Disciplinary Officer jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, issued her ruling in the Personal Conduct Policy matter regarding Deshaun Watson.”
“Under the 2020 NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement (‘CBA’), the factual findings of the Disciplinary Officer are binding and may not be appealed. Judge Robinson found that Mr. Watson violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy on multiple occasions and suspended him for six games,” the statement continued. “The CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the disciple imposed by the Disciplinary Officer. Such an appeal must be filed within three days and would be heard by the Commissioner or his designee.”
“The NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal,” the statement concluded.
According to Rapoport the NFL Players Association now has two days to respond to the appeal.
He wrote on Twitter, “More facts on the appeal, background and what it means:
— Any response to the appeal by the NFLPA must be filed in writing within two business days.
— Commissioner or his designee will issue a written decision that will constitute final disposition of the dispute and is binding.”
In a segment on NFL Total Access, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero speculated that this appeal will eventually land in federal court.
He reasoned, “By filing this appeal, this now sets up a very real possibility that this is going to go beyond the appeal and potentially end up in federal court, but that is going to be determined in part by what happens in the appeal process. This is a new disciplinary process for the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. It has not been put in place before.”
“Roger Goodell can handle the appeal himself or he can designate someone else to hear the appeal,” he continued. “If the suspension ends up getting increased — which remember the NFL wanted a minimum one year suspension with a possibility for reinstatement thereafter — if Roger Goodell or his designee increase the suspension then the NFL Players Association has already fired their warning shot.”
“They put out the statement calling on the NFL not to do this, not to file the appeal whatever the decision by Sue L. Robinson, the former federal judge and jointly appointed Disciplinary Officer, ended up yielding. It’s a six game suspension.” he said.
“By filing this appeal and the possibility it gets increased that brings up the very real possibility that the NFL Players Association could end up, after the appeal, filing a federal lawsuit bringing up all sorts of things they argued in the appeal including the conduct of NFL owners that had not been subject to similar disciplinary scale in a federal court setting. This could go months into the season, Scott. And, in the meantime, as part of any federal lawsuit they could also file for a temporary restraining order that would keep Deshaun Watson on the field until that court case is complete,” he concluded.
From our breaking news segment on the NFL’s decision to appeal Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension, and the looming possibility this ends up getting sorted out in federal court. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/uvoZAt0clK
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 3, 2022
What do you make of the NFL filing an appeal seemingly to have Watson’s disciplinary punishment increased?