The initial Deshaun Watson ruling isn't surprising but it is disappointing and now, there's no end in sight

It's good to know that nearly 30 instances of sexual assault are considered "nonviolent" in nature.

: This is a subscription-based newsletter that continues to exist because of reader support like yours. So, if you like what I write, subscribe, share and comment. But mostly subscribe.

: Like what you're reading? Please share Right Down Euclid with your friends!

️: If you want to join in on the discussion about this story, give me a follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

: Have any questions for the weekly mailbag? Or in general? Shoot Right Down Euclid an email – we'll try to answer the best way we can!

: If you or anyone you know have been impacted by cancer, I'd appreciate your financial support by donating to my VeloSano campaign and sharing, if possible!

Note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at

The ongoing Deshaun Watson situation is one of, if the most, exceptional cases in all of sports. For those who may not know, Watson came under NFL investigation after being named in three sexual misconduct lawsuits (that number would eventually balloon to more than 20) by women who he hired as masseuses. Some of these lawsuits say Watson ejaculated on women without their consent; some say he touched women with his penis without consent; two say Watson orally penetrated women without their consent. According to Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times, Watson met with at least 66 women for massage appointments over a period of 17 months from 2019 to 2021.

Watson has settled the majority of the civil suits accusing him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him this spring. All but one of these cases have been settled out of court. After an NFL investigation and a ruling from independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson, Watson will serve a six-game suspension without pay but will not be fined for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Robinson issued her ruling in a comprehensive 16-page report that agreed and somewhat disagreed with what the NFL and many others were hoping for. She wrote that the NFL recommended Watson be suspended for the entire 2022 regular season and postseason. But, due to the league's current CBA and what was available to Robinson in her investigation, the maximum suspension allowed for Watson was six games.

But, due to the nature of Watson's status as a multi-time sexual predator, the NFL wasn't satisfied with Robinson's ruling and recently announced that they will appeal. According to multiple reports, the NFL is pushing for an indefinite suspension of Watson, with the entirety of this upcoming NFL season being the bare minimum.

"On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent Disciplinary Officer jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, issued her ruling in the Personal Conduct Policy matter regarding Deshaun Watson," the league said in a statement on Wednesday. "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 CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the discipline 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."

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson could be facing an indefinite suspension in the coming weeks. But, there appears to be no end in sight. Photo credit: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Soon after, Goodell and the NFL announced that Peter C. Harvey would be appointed to deliver a final ruling on Watson. Harvey, who is a former New Jersey attorney general with a number of NFL ties, has a significant amount of power to end the Watson case with a judgment that creates a harsher punishment than the one delivered by Robinson. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam spoke to Mark Maske of The Washington Post at the league’s owners meetings on Tuesday, saying the team would “respect and honor the process” of the appeal.

That's all well and good but it’s fair to wonder what that actually means from Haslem and the Browns. And, more importantly, what happens next when there appears to be no end in sight? Harvey has the same element of control that Robinson did when she was making her decision. In theory, Harvey could reduce Watson's suspension to three games, operating along past precedents that Robinson noted in her decision.

It’s also possible he could embrace eight- or 10-game suspensions that were mentioned in Robinson’s decision, although she had framed those as domestic violence suspensions and noted that applying them to Watson’s case would be setting a new standard in what was deemed by the league to be non-violent sexual assault. But, due to Watson's case being the most unprecedented in all of football, along with, not showing any remorse for his actions or admitting any wrongdoing perhaps Harvey could feel more inclined to side with the NFL and deliver a more severe punishment.

Besides, the notion that the NFL wouldn’t use its full might in such an extreme case was always misguided. Harvey's decision is not the end all, be all since this could easily go to federal court afterward but If Watson’s suspension had stayed at six games, it would have kept a broken system under the current CBA broken. Not just because it would mean that virtually no personal conduct policy violation could extend beyond six games, but because it would reward a franchise that went all in on one of the most disgusting games of The Bachelor in modern NFL history.

Shame should be heaped on all the teams who were involved in the Watson sweepstakes but the Browns should be chastised the most. Cleveland was the organization that guaranteed Watson the fifth year in a contract extension. Not only that but, the Browns were the team that, just after a grand jury declined to indict Watson, gave him more leverage and the largest fully guaranteed deal in NFL history. Cleveland did everything it could to ensure they would be his preferred choice in a desperate attempt to compete for a Super Bowl title.

Watson only getting a six-game suspension felt like a light slap on the wrist not only for the quarterback but the Browns themselves in the grand scheme of things. But now, an ongoing legal quagmire that won't go away and could likely drag into the regular season, seems a bit more fitting. Unfortunately for the Browns, the depth and scope of the story could mean that there could be more women still waiting to come forward. Like the countless others before them, they should be believed and heard as well. This is never going to go away but, this is going to only end in one way for both Watson and the Browns: he's going to be suspended for quite a while. That's the way it should be.

Featured image credit: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images 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. Email him at 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!


Thanks for reading!

Let’s stay in touch. The Right Down Euclid newsletter is a recap of the week’s top stories.

Sign up for free now. You can unsubscribe any time.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top