Roger Goodell laid out the NFL's public case for a stiffer Deshaun Watson punishment on Tuesday while stating that the Cleveland Browns quarterback engaged in "multiple violations" that were "egregious" and "predatory."
Independent officer Sue L. Robinson ruled in the league's disciplinary hearing on Aug. 1 that Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct penalty amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual assault. She limited his ban to six games, writing that his “pattern of behavior was egregious” but “nonviolent sexual conduct."
Per the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL and NFLPA had the option to appeal the decision, which the NFL exercised as it seeks a suspension of at least one year. Goodell addressed the league's appeal from NFL meetings in Minneapolis. He used Robinson's "egregious" language while making his case.
“Because we’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said of the reasoning for the appeal, per NFL Network. “She was very clear about the evidence, should we enforce the evidence. That there was multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior."
While 24 women accused Watson of sexual misconduct or sexual assault in civil actions, the NFL's hearing considered just four of the accusations. Goodell told reporters that the league considers them separately, rather than a single violation.
"I think that's the case," Goodell continued. "That's what the facts say."
All but one of Watson's 24 accusers have settled their civil cases out of court.
Watson's fate now lies in the hands of former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, who is overseeing the appeal. He was appointed by Goodell, as agreed upon in the CBA. Harvey is a former federal prosecutor who was on the NFL committee that suspended Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games in 2017 amid an accusation of domestic violence. Harvey's eventual decision is not subject to further appeal. There is no firm timeline for Harvey to make his ruling.
The Browns open their season on Sept. 11 against the Carolina Panthers with backup Jacoby Brissett as the presumed starting quarterback in Watson's place.