Little news emerged during or after the first day of Deshaun Watson’s disciplinary hearing. One specific piece of information that emerged calls for further analysis and interpretation.
From The Associated Press’ Rob Maaddi: “I’ve also been told that the NFL, despite insisting on indefinite suspension, wants to avoid the appeals process – source said ‘a terrible situation for everyone involved’ – so the league is more likely to respect by Sue Robinson’s SI decision she came back with 6-8 games.
It’s a startling revelation. If this is true and accurate (and we will defer to Maaddi in this regard), the question becomes: what does this mean?
For starters, why would the NFL disclose this critical concession? Does he fear that if Judge Robinson thinks the NFL is destined to seize an inherently rigged appeals process, it would be more likely to impose no discipline on Watson? After all, that is the only way under the collective agreement to prevent any appeal, which would then be decided by the commissioner.
It’s hard not to wonder if it’s just a ruse to get him to impose some discipline, so the league can then appeal to the commissioner, whose staff have already ruled Watson should be suspended for at least a year.
Remember, the commissioner can’t afford to be perceived as being too lenient with Watson. It would be hard to sell anyone the idea that the league simply agreed to something far less than the NFL wanted, just to avoid prolonging a “terrible situation.” Given the steps in the process that the NFL and the NFL Players Association have collectively negotiated, the league has the absolute right to present to the commissioner any decision by Judge Robinson, other than a decision not to discipline Watson at all. Why would the league simply accept Judge Robinson’s decision, if it falls far short of what the league wants?
Frankly, this looks like a league tug-of-war maneuver. By having Judge Robinson believe that the league wouldn’t appeal his decision if it was between 6 and 8 games, he might be less inclined to conclude that Watson shouldn’t be disciplined at all, because it’s otherwise the only want to prevent the commissioner from imposing the punishment that the league currently wants. By disclosing this to the AP after the first day of hearings, the league is most likely using the media to negotiate moderate discipline with Judge Robinson, with a nod that his decision would not be upset if it landed in the se. -called favorite range.
If it allows them to force 6-8 games assuming the league won’t dispute it, then the league can start the appeals process and ask what they wanted in the first place.
Really, how much more “terrible” would the situation become if the league appealed Judge Robinson’s decision to the commissioner? It’s not like there’s going to be another full-fledged audience. It is happening. Appealing to the commissioner would be much simpler and more efficient. It would take less time and effort. And, in the very language of the CBA, it would allow the commissioner to enforce the very sentence his office is currently trying to obtain.
Anyone who knows anything about how the league office under Roger Goodell has behaved for nearly 16 years knows the league will be as aggressive as it wants. Despite periodic missteps (notably including the failed handling of the Ray Rice case), the commissioner lived up to his reputation as an enforcer. Why would anyone believe they would accept a 6-8 game suspension for Watson when the league office is currently pushing for a minimum ban of at least one year?
No, this looks and sounds like an effort to trick Judge Robinson into thinking his ruling will be safe, to minimize any temptation to slam the door on the Commissioner’s appellate jurisdiction by concluding that Watson should not be punished at all . And if we are able to see that, so is she.
At the end of the line ? We don’t buy it. And neither should she. Nothing has been leaked to The Associated Press or anyone else tying the NFL. Once the league has obtained the 6-8 game suspension it is now seeking, the league can appeal to the commissioner. Some will say, “But I thought they weren’t going to appeal a suspension of that length?” The league, at this point, can either ignore those questions or just say, “We never said that officially.”
As this is the first application of the new process arising from the 2020 labor agreement, there is no precedent, no history, no past practice. Everyone is plowing new ground, navigating uncharted waters.
The league has a long history of doing whatever it can to get everything it wants. Currently, he wants to suspend Watson for at least a year. It’s very hard to imagine the league would just shrug its shoulders and agree to 6-8 games, when they know they can appeal the case directly to the person running the league office. league for more. Our assumption is that the league wants to make sure Judge Robinson imposes some discipline, so that the commissioner can then impose whatever discipline the league wants.