The Rush: Deshaun Watson suspension evokes more questions than answers

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct by dozens of female massage therapists in Houston. Serving as an independent arbiter, former federal judge Sue Robinson handed down the ruling, which can be appealed by the NFL. The league originally sought a season-long suspension due to the unprecedented allegations against Watson.

Video Transcript


JARED QUAY: That was Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson getting cheers from fans at practice on Monday after the decision had been rendered to suspend him for six games. The ruling affirmed that Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy, as two dozen women filed civil lawsuits alleging that he engaged in sexual misconduct or sexual assault during private massage sessions in Houston. The NFL was pushing for a 17-game suspension in addition to the playoffs due to the unprecedented nature of the allegations against Watson.

But the independent arbiter who handed down the decision said that the league couldn't change the standards for quote, "non-violent sexual assault" without fair notice to the players. The league can appeal and may enact a longer suspension.

Just to add some context to this discussion, the arbiter, former federal judge Sue Robinson wrote that Watson did engage in sexual contact he knew was unwanted, that he used his status as a professional athlete to gain access to massage therapists, and that Watson lied about his actions and was not remorseful. And for all that, Watson will miss six games and lose $350,000 on a contract worth $230 million.

Just one more disheartening element about all of this is the Browns had some idea that this was coming. They offered Watson a gigantic contract and structured it in a way that would help the quarterback make as much money as possible after the disciplinary ruling came down. And it doesn't stop there. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Browns have an objectively easy schedule for the first six weeks of the season.

Yahoo Sports is exploring the many facets of the Watson case, like Henry Bushnell's article about the largest US anti-sexual assault group wanting the NFL to appeal the six-game suspension ruling and Shalise Manza Young's column on how hard it is to believe Watson's conduct was non-violent. Yahoo Sports will continue to cover the story as it unfolds.