AP

EXPLAINER: Watson discipline didn’t require legal charges

Aug 1, 2022, 11:33 AM | Updated: 12:19 pm

When two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Deshaun Watson on criminal complaints stemming from allegations of sexual assault or harassment by 24 women, it didn’t clear the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback from facing consequences from the NFL.

Watson and the Cleveland Browns found out the severity of his punishment on Monday, when he was suspended six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He won’t be paid while suspended, though he won’t lose as much as he would have if the NFL had its way.

Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson made the decision after the NFL pushed for an indefinite suspension of at least one year and Watson’s legal team argued for no punishment during a three-day hearing that concluded June 30.

A look at the issue:

WHY WAS WATSON DISCIPLINED IF HE NEVER FACED LEGAL CHARGES?

A player does not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to be disciplined for conduct detrimental to the league, per the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association. Ezekiel Elliott, Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston and Kareem Hunt are among the many players who have received suspensions for various infractions despite not being charged criminally.

Some legal experts are critical of the process.

“Normally arbitration is reserved for civil matters in workplaces, which is what makes the NFL’s investigation of criminal allegations wholly unique and, in my opinion, potentially unfair,” said attorney Amy Dash, founder of League of Justice, a website that reports on sports and the law. “The determinations create a presumption of guilt by many people in the public forum. But so far courts have not wanted to disturb the outcomes because the whole process was negotiated and agreed upon in the CBA by the players’ union reps and the league.”

Dash also noted that sometimes players are being investigated for criminal allegations in the arbitration process and they “don’t have the same protections a defendant in the criminal courts would have such as presumption of innocence, a burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the same rules of evidence and discovery, etc.”

But the league negotiated its disciplinary process with the union so it has the power, as an employer, to impose punishment.

WHAT WAS DIFFERENT ABOUT WATSON’S CASE?

The major difference in Watson’s case was the discipline came from an independent arbiter. The league and union agreed in the 2020 CBA that a disciplinary officer would determine whether a player violated the personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline. Previously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the authority to do it.

This was the first case for Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the union.

However, Goodell still has the right to overturn her decision if either side appeals. Per the CBA, an appeal would be heard by Goodell or a person he designates and the written decision would be final.

After learning the ruling was imminent, the NFLPA issued a joint statement with Watson on Sunday night saying they would not appeal Robinson’s ruling and urged the league to follow suit.

Goodell wasn’t directly involved in Robinson’s decision, but the league made it clear it wanted an unprecedented punishment. The NFL is well aware of public perception. Fallout from its decision in the Ray Rice case in 2014 — when the league increased its suspension only after video of the former Ravens running back hitting his fiancee emerged — led the NFL to vow it would levy harsher penalties in cases involving violence and sexual assault against women.

WHAT IS THIS COSTING WATSON?

Watson settled 23 of the civil lawsuits from 24 women alleging sexual harassment and assault during private massage therapy sessions when he played for the Houston Texans.

Watson, who signed a fully guaranteed $230 million, five-year contract, will lose only $345,000 if the suspension is unchanged because his base salary this season is $1.035 million. His $45 million signing bonus is not affected by the suspension.

After one of the grand juries declined to indict Watson in March, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said: “We respect our justice process. I love the law. It’s designed to get to the truth. That’s really what people want. I don’t think as a culture we can live with injustice. Remember, a grand jury no bill is not an exoneration. People, even when they clear the criminal justice system, often face accountability and repercussions in other parts of our legal system. And so I think to determine whether justice was done in this case you’re going to have to wait and see how it all comes out on the civil side of things and then through the NFL on the administrative side of things. And then people will determine whether that’s justice.”

The administrative part has now been decided.

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

3 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

4 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

11 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

12 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

14 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

EXPLAINER: Watson discipline didn’t require legal charges