On the eve of the hearing before the independent disciplinary officer who will make the initial decision on the type of punishment Deshaun Watson will face, the NFL has recommended that the quarterback serve an indefinite suspension of at least one year.
The league informed Sue L. Robinson, the former federal judge who serves as disciplinary officer, Watson and the NFL Players Association of its recommendation Monday night, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by either party to comment on the matter.
At the end of the hearing, which is expected to begin Tuesday and possibly run until Wednesday, Robinson – who is being jointly indemnified by the league and the players’ union – will review the facts gathered during a year-long investigation. led by the league. It will also consider arguments presented by attorneys for the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
She will then render her decision on what punishment, if any, Watson should receive.
If Robinson follows the NFL’s recommendation, Watson and the NFLPA are expected to appeal. However, the odds of winning such an appeal seem rather slim because, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would preside over this process and make a final decision, or designate someone else to do so.
AFTER: Woman sues Deshaun Watson and also sues former QB team Houston Texans
NFL NEWSLETTER: Sign up now to get football news delivered to your inbox
The recommendation of an indefinite suspension of at least one year gives the NFL leeway to lengthen the sentence if more incriminating evidence comes to light either during one of the four ongoing civil lawsuits against Watson or elsewhere. . The NFL will also recommend certain conditions Watson should meet to make his reinstatement possible, the person said, confirming a Wall Street Journal report on the league’s plans.
Sexual misconduct allegations against Watson began to surface last year after the quarterback expressed his displeasure with the Houston Texans brass and demanded a trade. Watson didn’t appear in a single game last season as he was at odds with the Texans, who remained determined to get some nice compensation for one of the game’s brightest stars.
Opposing teams have been reluctant to meet those demands while unsure whether Watson would face criminal charges from Houston authorities. Last spring, two grand juries chose not to bring any charges against the 26-year-old. However, 24 massage therapists whose services Watson had obtained through social media interactions over the past few years still filed civil lawsuits against him.
Shortly after the grand jury rulings, the Cleveland Browns acquired Watson in exchange for first-round picks, a third, and two fourths. The Browns also signed Watson to a record five-year, $230 million, fully guaranteed contract. The deal included a low base salary of just over $1 million for 2022 to help the quarterback avoid heavy financial losses should he receive a lengthy suspension this year.
Last week, Watson – who maintained he had never assaulted any of the women or forced any of them into non-consensual sex acts – reached confidential financial agreements with 20 of the 24 women.
But that had no bearing on the NFL’s decision to recommend an indefinite suspension of at least one year.
NFL officials wanted to send a strong message that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated and therefore called for severe punishment. According to people familiar with the situation, NFL officials expressed frustration with the Browns’ creative pay structure. That, coupled with the high number of accusers and the broad scope of the charges against Watson, factored into the league’s decision to seek a suspension of at least one year.
In preliminary settlement discussions with the league, the NFL had informed Watson’s camp that if he accepted a one-year suspension, it would not change the length of the sentence if additional details became public. However, Watson opposed the proposed one-year ban.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson: NFL recommends suspension of at least one year