Quarterback Deshaun Watson suspended for sexual misconduct



Cleveland Browns Deshaun Watson has been suspended from the NFL due to numerous sexual misconducts. https://unsplash.com/license

Emma Makin

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been charged with an 11-game suspension as well as a $5 million fine as a result of his sexual miscondut scandal.

In March of 2022, the Cleveland Browns traded for Watson from the Houston Texans. The trade divided many Browns fans, with some welcoming a new star quarterback to their franchise while others had concerns about the allegations being made against him.

Watson was accused of sexeual assualt and harrassment by 24 women in civil lawsuits filed in Harris County, Texas. The lawyer representing the women, Tony Buzbee, had stated that all of the 24 womens’ accusations had reiterated claims of vulgar and coercive behavior.

The New York Times launched an investigation, and the published results showed Watson had arranged massage appointments with an estimated 66 women from the fall of 2019 to the spring of 2021, where Watson requested sexual acts.

In November of 2020 Watson paid a local Houston Spa owner $5,000 for “spa equipment,” as owner Dionne Louis said. Louis had connected Watson with different women masseuses, who had to sign nondisclosure agreements provided to Watson by the Houston Texans, as the investigation found out.

One of the women filed a lawsuit against the Texans in June claiming the team “turned a blind eye” to Watson’s undismissable behavior by providing him with the nondisclosures.

Over the year of 2022, Watson reached settlements with 23 of the 24 women that filed lawsuits against him. Buzbee released a June statement that said the conditions and amounts of the settlements were private and the cases would be dismissed when completed. Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, made no comment.

The Texans had made arrangements in July 2022 with 30 women who accused Watson of misconduct and intended to make claims against the team.

The owners of the Houston Texans, the McNair family, released a statement: “Although our organization did not have any knowledge of Deshaun Watson’s alleged misconduct, we have intentionally chosen to resolve this matter amicably. This is not an admission of any wrongdoing, but instead a clear stand against any form of sexual assault and misconduct.”

A grand jury in Harris County decided to not bring any charges against Watson on any of the nine criminal complaints. The last criminal case against Watson occured two weeks later in Brazoria County, Texas, whose grand jury also deduced not to charge Watson on the claims of sexual harrassment during a massage session.

From the beginning, Watson has denied all the claims against him. He continuously repeated these claims at his introductory news conference with the Browns in March and again in June during minicamp, saying, “I have regrets as far as the impact that it’s had on the community and people outside of just myself.”

On Aug. 1, 2022 Sue L. Robinson, the retired judge jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to oversee player discipline, suspended Watson for six games, as she found he violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Robinson suggested that NFL’s policies and past rulings had stopped her from giving Watson a harsher punishment.

Many thought that Robinson’s punishment was too lenient and didn’t address the severity of the accusations made against Watson. The backlash caused the league to retract Robinson’s ruling two days after it was announced.

With the NFL not having a ruling on Watson’s punishment, he was allowed to start in the Browns’ first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Before the start of the game on Aug. 12, Watson issued his first apology stating, “I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation.”

The next Thursday, the final disciplinary decision was announced. Watson will have to undergo evaluation by behavioral experts and complete a treatment program in addition to the fine and suspension.

Watson will be eligible for reinstatement on Nov. 28 and could play in the team’s 13th game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters that Watson will not play again in the preseason.

The NFL and the Browns will contribute $1 million each in combination with Watson’s $5 million fine to a fund to support prevention of sexual misconduct.

“Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine and a more substantial suspension. We are grateful to Judge Robinson and Peter Harvey for their efforts in addressing these matters, which laid the foundation for reaching this conclusion.”

Watson released a statement after the settlement was announced.

“I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone, and I’m continuing to stand on that, but at the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career.”

Watson’s scandal is still creating waves in the NFL community. Rita Smith, who advises the NFL on matters of domestic violence and sexual assault, condemned his repsonses.

“He’s saying exactly what he thinks he needs to say to get on the field again. He’s not questioning any of his behaviors at all,” Smith said.

Even though the NFL gave their punishment to Watson, people are questioning if it was what he really deserved or simply a measure taken to appease the public. The controversy surrounding the player still continues.