When a settlement was reached between the NFL and NFLPA in regard to Deshaun Watson last week, there were no winners or losers. Naturally, things had to come to a conclusion between both sides. While the NFL was pushing for an indefinite suspension, it was never going to get to that point. The NFLPA is one of the best unions in the world and would let this go to court if they needed to in order to keep Watson on the field. To avoid the lawsuits and countersuits that would follow, a compromise had to be reached.
In the end, all it’s going to cost Watson is $5 million and 11 games this upcoming NFL season. Even if he missed all of last season due to facing more than 20 civil lawsuits from massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct, it feels like the lightest slap on the wrist possible for Watson. Some fans, including this writer, thought the compromised punishment was far too lenient. But, for the fans, who think this was a cash grab by multiple women or that the NFL is somehow, in some way conspiring against the Cleveland Browns, there is only one party to blame in this mess: the Browns themselves.
Cleveland debased themselves and traded three years’ worth of good draft picks for Watson and then gifted him $230 million guaranteed, no questions asked. The Browns even structured Watson’s contract so that his money would be protected in the event of a suspension in his first year with the team. Cleveland allegedly spoke with exactly zero of Watson’s accusers before making this deal.
Not once did the Browns even bother to put up a facade of caring throughout the whole process. They didn’t seem to care then or in training camp. and they continued to really not care when they had Watson start under center in their first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars when a decision on his fate was still looming. They claim to know who the real Watson is but in reality the Browns only put in five percent of the work required and instead saw a quarterback who could be talented enough to take them further than Baker Mayfield did.
But, that’s the price of dancing with the devil, and Cleveland saw the consequences of their actions the moment their season began. Fans in attendance at TIAA Bank Field belted out, “You sick fuck” towards Watson over and over when he took to the field and it’s probably not the worst of what’s to come this season. But, maybe Watson isn’t the only, as Jaguars fans put it, sick fuck. Maybe it’s also the Browns since they’re willing to go down with this sinking ship. Browns center Joel Bitonio chalked it up to the somewhat tired mantra of it being, “Cleveland against the world” in regard to how Watson, and the team, will be treated on the road.
What the Browns and Deshaun Watson experienced in Jacksonville is just the beginning. But, First Energy Stadium shouldn’t be a safe space for Watson either. Photo credit: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Since, at home, Watson can bask in the unearned adulation that comes with what fans consider overcoming the idea of true adversity. That’s the truly sickest part of this as the dust continues to settle in the wake of the settlement. Fans and everyone around Watson trying to normalize the quarterback and blatantly ignore what happened.
It could’ve been the gross facade of him signing autographs after being swarmed by numerous young fans. It could be the fans both in person and online who are ready to defend Watson like he’s their best friend and scream down anyone who disagrees with them. But, that’s okay if you’re Watson or the Browns. They’ll always continue to hope that this can all be swept under the rug so that everyone can move forward and that this can remain in the rearview mirror.
Watson’s first game back will be on the road against his former team in Houston and he’ll see plenty of hostility from Texans fans. But, when he comes home two weeks later against the Baltimore Ravens, it’ll be plenty of cheers and woofs and nowhere enough boos and jeers to be thrown Watson’s way. Through a normal lens, people would be outraged at what Watson did and how the Browns have tripled down on supporting their new franchise centerpiece throughout all of this.
Unfortunately, fandom isn’t typically viewed through logic and morality. Plenty of people, friends and family included, are willing to ignore what Watson did, all while unknowingly thumbing their nose at the victims, if it translates to winning. Unfortunately for them, it won’t happen right away – this current iteration of the Browns isn’t dissimilar to what Watson left behind personnel-wise in Houston.
But, as time goes on, Cleveland will find a way to further flesh out and build a contender around Watson. The front office in Berea as well as the coaching staff is too smart and talented to fail with this much talent at key positions. That, in turn, is going to lead to winning and perhaps the first Super Bowl win in the franchise’s history.
If that time were to come, people need to remember showed how morally bankrupt an organization the Browns can be when winning is on the line. Over the course of a single offseason, the Browns took all goodwill they had and burned it to the ground. It was once somewhat charming and endearing to root for Cleveland and their fans since the Browns were known as the mistake by the lake. But, when they traded for Watson, Cleveland went from sympathetic to sickening in no time at all.
The Browns continue to be that as the team, and their fans, try to show some semblance of humanity Watson. Multiple women in your life have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Maybe it reached a level of criminality as defined by local law, but, unfortunately, maybe it didn’t as well. But the mental and emotional scars have stayed with them for years since. So, even though the world knows Watson, his accusers are anonymous.
We cannot use that as permission to be callous.
We cannot use that as an excuse to normalize Deshaun Watson and what he did.
Featured image credit: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at [email protected] Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!