CLEVELAND (WJW/AP) — The Cleveland Browns and football fans everywhere have been waiting for the NFL to determine an appropriate penalty for star quarterback Deshaun Watson, accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women.
Monday, it was announced that Watson would be suspended for 6 games.
Former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players’ Association, reviewed the findings to decide whether Watson violated the personal conduct policy. She also decided his discipline.
Previously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the authority to suspend players.
The league and the union can recommend a potential length of suspension. If either the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the CBA.
The Fox 8 I-Team has reported 24 women sued Watson, claiming sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits last month. Details of the settlements are confidential.
About half of the women who filed lawsuits spoke to league investigators. Watson also spent several days talking to NFL investigators.
Watson and his attorneys have said he cooperated fully with investigators. Watson has maintained the allegations made against him were false.
Ten women filed criminal reports against him. Nine of the cases were presented to a Harris County Grand Jury. One case was presented to a grand jury in Brazoria County. Both grand juries declined to indict Watson on any criminal charges.
NFL player suspensions in recent history
The NFL has punished several players for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, some without criminal charges. Overall, more than 20 players have received suspensions for violating the personal conduct policy since 2014.
Some of those include:
The league promised to get tougher against players accused of violence against women following fallout from the 2014 case of Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens star running back. At that time, Goodell announced a new league policy for domestic violence and other assaults. First-time offenders would be suspended at least six games, and a second offense would draw a lifetime ban.
Rice was initially suspended two games for an altercation with his future wife in a hotel elevator. After video emerged of Rice knocking her out and dragging her body out of the elevator, the league suspended him indefinitely.
Rice won an appeal and was reinstated two months later but never played in the league again. The NFL also reported he entered a pretrial intervention program. Under the program, he wouldn’t be prosecuted, and the charges were to be expunged after one year.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games back in April 2010 after violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He was accused of sexual assault by two women. Goodell later reduced the suspension to four games.
The recently retired two-time Super Bowl champion was not charged in either case and didn’t appeal the league’s suspension.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott received a six-game suspension in 2017 for using “physical force” against his former girlfriend three times in a span of five days resulting in injuries to her face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston got three games for a sexual harassment accusation in 2018 when he played for Tampa.
As a Browns player, he was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season for substance abuse policy violations. He was traded to New England in September 2018. He has been in and out of the league since.
The NFL indefinitely suspended the then-Seahawks wide receiver in December 2019 for violating league policies on performance enhancers. He’d been reinstated that August after having been suspended indefinitely in December 2018.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, a former Kansas City Chiefs running back and Willoughby South High School star, made headlines after he was seen on video hitting and kicking a woman at a hotel in Cleveland in February 2018. He was also involved in an altercation at a resort in Ohio.
The Chiefs released him in November 2018. The Browns signed him the following Feburary. He then signed a two-year contract extension with the team in 2020.
Hunt was suspended for eight games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Criminal charges were not filed against him in the case.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the 2022 season for betting on NFL games in 2021. The suspension was for activity that took place while Ridley was away from the team addressing mental health concerns. The league says the suspension will carry “through at least the conclusion of the 2022 season.”
The NFL says the betting took place during a five-day period in late November 2021. Ridley may petition for reinstatement after Feb. 23, 2023.