NFLPA defense of Deshaun Watson will target NFL treatment of multiple owners

NFLPA defense of Deshaun Watson will target NFL treatment of multiple owners

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Eventually and inevitably, the NFL will take action in the Deshaun Watson case. If that action includes an unpaid suspension imposed under the Personal Conduct Policy, the NFL Players Association will step up with an aggressive defense on Watson’s behalf.

According to a source with knowledge of the intended strategy, the NFLPA is currently preparing for an “unprecedented” punishment league recommendation from Watson. Regardless of the specific penalty, the union will mobilize to defend Watson, as it is required to do under the federal duty of fair representation.

The source explains that the NFLPA would defend Watson in part by making an aggressive argument based on the consequences, or lack thereof, imposed on a trio of owners who recently found themselves embroiled in off-court controversy. The argument will be that Watson’s punishment is not commensurate with the punishment of those owners, especially in light of this key line of the Personal Conduct Policy: “The ownership and management of the club or league have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to greater discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.

According to the source, the union’s defense of Deshaun Watson will specifically target the league’s handling of Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

As for Snyder, the union will argue that his punishment in light of attorney Beth Wilkinson’s findings and potential recommendations was weak and not fully implemented. As for Kraft, the union will argue that Kraft received no punishment when he allegedly received a massage that became a sexual encounter. (Although Kraft was charged with solicitation, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the CCTV used by law enforcement violated the rights of various people who were secretly recorded.) As for Jones, the union will argue that the league failed to investigate the voyeurism scandal involving former Cowboys public relations chief Rich Dalrymple, including but not limited to key issues of what Jones knew, when he knew , and if he knew that Dalrymple secretly recorded several cheerleaders while they changed clothes.

The union believes these arguments will be more likely to find traction than in the past, given the adoption in 2020 of a new independent process for assessing potential breaches of the personal conduct policy by players. With Commissioner Roger Goodell or his delegate no longer presiding over the evidence-evaluation and decision-making effort, the disciplinary officer (retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson) could decide to allow the union to fully explore the how the league handled Snyder, Kraft and Jones.

The union, for example, could have access to evidence from Wilkinson’s investigation, the league’s handling of information, and the key question of what Wilkinson would have recommended, had the league bothered to ask him for a recommendation. (As previously reported, she reportedly recommended that Snyder be forced to sell.) The union could also have access to internal communications regarding whether Kraft should be disciplined and whether Jones and the Cowboys should be investigated. .

This approach would be separate from Watson’s defense of any allegations of wrongdoing. It would be based on the question of whether, even though he violated the policy with the habit of conducting private massages and trying to turn those massages into sexual encounters, any punishment of Watson must be justified by the punishment given to Snyder, the non-punishment given to Kraft, and the very absence of an investigation of Jones.

Whether and to what extent that defense will hold real water — and gather real evidence — will depend on Judge Robinson, who was hired jointly by the league and union. But if the league means what it says when it says owners are held to a higher standard and will be subject to greater discipline for personal conduct policy violations, the way Snyder, Kraft and Jones have been treated by the league also becomes directly relevant to how Watson is treated.

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