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Watson’s punishment not enough

Monday morning, former federal change and disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson handed down her punishment for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, a decision that interested parties across the country have been waiting for.

The action being judged? Watson being accused by nearly two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments.

In her review, Robinson called the behavior “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.” The ensuing punishment? A six-game suspension that will allow Watson to return for Cleveland’s Oct. 23 road matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

If the suspension stands, Watson will miss just one divisional matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sept. 22). He’ll also return in time for a stretch of games that includes matchups with the Cincinnati Bengals, a bye week, and then three straight challenging games against Miami, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay before going to Houston on Dec. 4.

The situation can still change though.

The NFL and the NFLPA have three days to appeal Robinson’s decision. Sunday night, the NFLPA stated it would “stand by” the disciplinary officer’s decision. The league said Monday that it is still determining its next steps. If the league appeals the punishment, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates will make the ruling on an appropriate punishment, per terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

This is an opportunity for the NFL to get one right not only to show its morals but to show its priorities when it comes to the safety of women.

In the conclusion of her report, Robinson stated, “Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”

This was more than just a one-time thing. It was an action performed over and over until it was brought to light. Now, after settling 23 of those 24 lawsuits as of Monday, Watson will still get to cash in on the massive deal he signed with the Browns this offseason.

He signed a fully guaranteed $230 million, five-year contract, and if the suspension remains will only lose $345,000 because of his $1.035 million base salary this season, according to a report by the Associated Press. His $45 million signing bonus also won’t be affected by the suspension either.

If the league stands pat, nothing will have changed as to how it’s approached situations like this in the past. It’s handed out more severe punishments for smaller things in the past. Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for a full year after betting a total of $1,500 on five games during the 2021 season when he was away from the Falcons’ team facility on the non-football illness list. Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavias Bryant and former Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon were basically run out of the league for smoking marijuana.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for six games — the same punishment as Watson — for PED use. When it comes to the severity of the action, the NFL has been inconsistent in the past. If the suspension stands, it will just be another example of the league being light on players who commit some sort of misconduct involving women, whether in terms of sexual misconduct or domestic violence.

Ray Rice (2 games), Kareem Hunt (8 games), and Ben Roethlisberger (4 games) are all examples that come to mind.

To put it in even more perspective, Major League Baseball recently handed down a massive two-year suspension for former Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer for non-criminal sexual assault allegations.

Before Robinson heard the case, the NFL had asked for an open-ended suspension of at least a year for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Now, even though the NFLPA can challenge the league’s ruling, if it decides to appeal, Goodell and the NFL have an opportunity to change their narrative towards sexual conduct, whether it be violent or nonviolent, and they should take advantage of it.

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