Editor†s comment† This story contains reports of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
While Roger Goodell confirmed that the league’s investigation into Deshaun Watson is still ongoing, the commissioner is reportedly not the one who will determine whether the quarterback has violated personal conduct policy, according to the 2020 collective bargaining agreement.
A source told Yahoo! Sport instead, it is expected to be former U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson, someone who both the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to act as an impartial arbitrator with disciplinary cases similar to Watson’s.
Goodell could have previously acted unilaterally for the new CBA. Regardless of who determines the outcome of the investigation, Watson still faces three options: fine, suspension or no penalty.
“We have been very clear over the past year that the civil matters have been playing out over the past year; the only thing that has changed is the criminal element that has at least been resolved,” Goodell said. “And that was an important element in the context of the commissioner’s exemption that we discussed with our players’ association. So if the criminal had gone ahead, that would more likely have triggered a commissioner’s exemption. I don’t think the civil cases per se would do that at this point. If there is a violation of the personal conduct policy, this can give rise to something. But somehow it would be more likely to trigger some sort of discipline.”
The former Texan quarterback was recently traded to the Browns in a blockbuster five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed, record-breaking contract that became the largest guaranteed contract in league history. However, Watson continues to face extensive legal challenges: 22 active civil lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and assault occur during massage therapy sessions. The lawsuits describe accounts ranging from the quarterback’s refusal to cover his genitals to “touching” [a plaintiff] with his penis and tried to force her to have oral sex with him.”
The quarterback also faced criminal charges.
On March 11, a Harris County grand jury dismissed nine “no” bills on nine criminal charges against the then-Texan quarterback. A Harris County district attorney said the decision ended the criminal case against him in that county, and Watson was traded shortly after. A grand jury in Brazoria County declined to indict Watson on a tenth count on Thursday.
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Although criminal proceedings have been completed in both provinces, civil statements, which began the same day the first grand jury was convened, are still pending. The quarterback reportedly invoked the Fifth Amendment during the first two statements, but reportedly answered questions under oath just days after criminal proceedings in Harris County were closed.
The transaction was announced before the Brazoria County grand jury considered an indictment, but after Watson answered questions under oath in the civil impeachment trial.
Watson denied assaulting, harassing or disrespecting a woman during his introductory press conference with the browns on Friday.
“I understand that these allegations are serious. I’ve never attacked a woman. I’ve never despised a woman,” Watson said. “I was raised to be sincere and to respect everyone around me. … I have never done the things these people claim.”
In the wake of the trade, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center received more than 1,800 donations in response, raising more than $88,000 in less than a week Friday morning. The agency released a statement on March 19 in response to the trade saying, in part, “We understand that the story surrounding Deshaun Watson on the Cleveland Browns team is triggering far too many of our friends and neighbors. For those who need additional support , know that Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is available to you 24/7/365.
“To the community we say, we see you. We hear your outrage. We feel it too. Every click. Every post and every tweet. Every donation sends a clear message.”
There’s another notable detail built into his Browns contract: For every game Watson may get suspended, the quarterback will lose just $55,556. His base salary is just $1 million in 2022, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. If Watson had stayed with the Texans, he would have lost $1.94 million for every game in which he was suspended.
As the civil deposition proceeding continues, here’s a recap of what’s happened on and off the pitch since Watson’s last snap.
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