You don’t have to be a lawyer or a sexual harassment expert or a police officer to think there’s something wrong with the punishment that was handed down to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
A six-game suspension.
One quarter of a game for each victim.
It just doesn’t pass the smell test.
When you heard the news, weren’t you … angry?
Watson was accused by two dozen women — all of them telling the same story, none of them acquainted — of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. By way of justifying the six-game suspension, former U.S. judge Sue Robinson, the arbitrator in the case, said that Watson was guilty of sexual assault, but it was “non-violent.”
Oh, boy, does she really want to go there?
The descriptions of sexual assault by some of the women certainly sounded like physical force was used and that, by its nature, is violent. At least two of them say he forced them to perform oral sex and one said she feared for her life. That qualifies as violent.
This was not a case of things getting out of hand between a man and a woman in a single, passionate, spontaneous encounter.
Those are the actions of a predator.
Some of the victims say they have struggled to work, struggled with depression, struggled to return to their profession since their encounter with Watson.
Know what Watson got out of all this? A raise — a trade to a new team (the hapless Cleveland Browns), a $230 million guaranteed contract and a six-week vacation to start the season, albeit unpaid. It will cost him $345,000 — pocket change.
As the headline in The Ringer put it, “Everyone loses in the Deshaun Watson ruling, but Deshaun Watson.”
The victims. The NFL. The players. The fans. The Cleveland Browns. Anyone with a mother (or daughter or sister). Anyone who wants to change the culture of sexual harassment and abuse of women.
How come every time the NFL encounters one of these cases involving the abuse of women, the league’s response causes so much heartburn? The Washington cheerleader scandal. The Ray Rice business. Kareem Hunt in the hotel. Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault accusations. Antonio Brown’s sexual assault of a trainer. The almost endless cases involving the violent assault of women — Greg Hardy, Ezekiel Elliott, Ray McDonald, John Brown, Chad Wheeler ... on and on it goes. Their punishments by the NFL — or lack thereof — left everyone shaking their heads.
This is the league that boasted its support of women by wearing pink for breast cancer awareness (also a great way to market itself and its gear).
It’s difficult to reconcile Watson’s suspension with the accusations against him; it’s also difficult to reconcile it when compared to some of the other suspensions handed out by the league. To wit:
6 games — Ezekiel Elliott, after it was determined he had assaulted his girlfriend on several occasions.
5 games — Tyrelle Pryor, for receiving improper benefits while he was in college.
8 games — Richie Incognito, for bullying a teammate.
4 games — Tom Brady, because of his role in a deflated football.
12 games — Vontaze Burfict, for a hit on an opposing player.
1 season — Adams Jones, for attacking a woman and threatening a security guard’s life.
6 games — Myles Garrett, for an on-the-field brawl.
6 games — DeAndre Hopkins, for using PEDs.
Didn’t Watson’s actions deserve more than those penalties?
The NFL, which can appeal the decision of the judge, reportedly wanted at least a suspension of one full season. Regardless of what happens, Watson is going to be public enemy No. 1 in the NFL. How could anyone cheer for this guy? Even Cleveland Browns fans should be disgusted.