Deshaun Watson Suspended Six Games by the N.F.L.

Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback accused by greater than two dozen girls of sexual misconduct throughout therapeutic massage remedies, was suspended Monday for six video games for violating the N.F.L.’s private conduct coverage and was not fined.

The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Gamers Affiliation didn’t instantly return requires remark.

The ruling was made by Sue L. Robinson, the retired federal decide collectively appointed by the N.F.L. and the gamers union to supervise participant self-discipline. The league and the gamers union have three enterprise days to submit a written attraction, which might be dealt with by Commissioner Roger Goodell or an individual of his selecting. The gamers union stated in a press release on Sunday evening — earlier than Robinson knowledgeable each side of her determination — that it will not attraction and referred to as on the N.F.L. to let the ruling stand.

By the point Watson is eligible to return from suspension it is going to have been about 22 months since he final performed in an N.F.L. sport.

The ruling comes after a 15-month investigation into allegations that Watson, then quarterback of the Houston Texans, had engaged in sexually coercive and lewd conduct towards girls he employed for massages from the autumn of 2019 by means of March 2021. Watson denied the claims and grand juries in two Texas counties declined to cost Watson criminally.

Watson has reached settlements with all however one of many 24 girls who filed civil lawsuits in opposition to him. Twenty fits have been settled in June, and shortly earlier than Robinson issued her ruling, Watson reached agreements with three extra girls, together with Ashley Solis, the licensed therapeutic massage therapist who filed the primary declare in opposition to Watson in March 2021, a lawyer for the ladies confirmed.

Among the many conduct prohibited by the league’s private conduct coverage are intercourse offenses, actions that endanger the security and well-being of one other particular person and something that undermines the league’s integrity. The coverage purports to carry the individuals who signify the league to a “higher standard,” no matter how circumstances are adjudicated elsewhere.

The Browns made a big funding in Watson, buying and selling prime draft picks to amass his providers after which signing him a five-year, $230 million absolutely assured contract to be their franchise quarterback. An elite expertise, Watson requested a commerce from the Texans after the 2020 season when Houston struggled to a 4-12 report.

He was traded to the Browns in March, after a primary Texas grand jury declined to cost him criminally, for 3 first-round picks and three extra alternatives within the N.F.L. draft. A second grand jury additionally opted to not carry prices in opposition to Watson.

The league and Watson’s representatives couldn’t negotiate a mutually agreed upon self-discipline, placing the preliminary determination in Robinson’s arms. She oversaw a three-day listening to in late June, throughout which the N.F.L. really useful that Watson be suspended indefinitely and required to attend not less than a full season to reapply, whereas the union and Watson’s representatives argued in opposition to a prolonged ban.

This was the N.F.L.’s first private conduct case to be heard by a disciplinary officer as a substitute of Goodell, a protocol established within the 2020 collective bargaining settlement. Upfront of Robinson’s determination, the union referred to as the brand new course of neutral and legit whereas imploring the N.F.L. to not ask Goodell or his designee to override her ruling on an attraction.

The choice on Watson’s self-discipline was extensively anticipated, not solely because of the Browns’ funding in him, however as a result of the breadth of allegations in opposition to Watson set this aside from every other private conduct case that has been thought-about by the league. The choice comes as scrutiny of the N.F.L.’s therapy of ladies has included a congressional inquiry into the office therapy of feminine workers on the Washington Commanders and a warning from attorneys basic in six states, together with New York, that they are going to examine the league until it addresses allegations of office harassment of ladies and minorities.

The N.F.L. started its investigation of Watson in March 2021, when the primary accusers’ lawsuits have been filed. The league’s investigators, who wouldn’t have subpoena energy, met with 10 of the ladies who filed lawsuits in opposition to Watson, contemporaneous witnesses to confirm their accounts and different girls who’ve labored with Watson.

The Browns anticipated Watson to be suspended for not less than a part of the 2022 season and structured his contract accordingly, loading most of his $46 million compensation for this yr right into a signing bonus. He’ll lose solely a portion of his roughly $1 million base wage.

Watson can proceed figuring out with the Browns throughout coaching camp. Pending any potential appeals, his suspension will start with the Browns first common season sport on Sept. 11 in opposition to the Carolina Panthers and he can be eligible to return for the Browns’ seventh sport, in opposition to the Baltimore Ravens, on Oct. 23.