Deshaun Watson: The NFL is appealing the Cleveland Browns suspension of the six-game suspension

The National Football League announced, on Wednesday, that it will resume six games over the suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

[Original story, published at 3 p.m. ET]

Attorney Tony Busby, who appeared on ESPN’s “First Take,” attacked the investigation, saying he hoped the NFL would appeal the case, but that his clients are angry and disappointed by the mitigating suspension issued by the discipline officer.

“Don’t expect the NFL to do anything heroic here,” Busby said.

Watson was suspended Monday for six games without pay for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy in private meetings with massage therapists, according to a ruling by a retired federal judge appointed jointly by the NFL and the American Football Players Association.

Watson has repeatedly denied the accusations.

“I have never assaulted, I have not bothered with respect, I have never molested any woman in my life,” Watson said. “I have no regrets.”

Two grand jurors in Texas refused to charge Watson with any crimes.

Watson throws a pass during Brown's training camp.

24 civil lawsuits were filed against Watson – 23 were settled confidentially.

Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have until Thursday to appeal the suspension to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL said it is reviewing Judge Sue Robinson’s decision and will make a decision on its next steps. The players’ union has already said it will not appeal.

An appeal from either party will be heard by Goodell, with its ruling — or its designee — being the final judgment, in accordance with the 2020 collective bargaining agreement.

Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin told CNN he would not be commented until after the NFL decides whether to appeal.

Judge Robinson, who was appointed jointly by the NFL and the National Liberation League, said she was suspending the 26-year-old for his “predatory behaviour”.

Robinson wrote in the 16-page ruling: “Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr Watson’s pattern of behavior is more egregious than any previously reported. to be reviewed by the NFL.”

But, despite these findings, Judge Robinson criticized the NFL for ordering an unprecedented suspension of the entire season that would be significantly longer than other players charged with nonviolent sexual behavior.

On Tuesday, Buzbee – the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case against Watson – told ESPN he hoped the NFL would move forward with the appeal because the gesture would be well received by the defendants.

“I think that will change the messaging and I think it will be well received by the women that I represent,” he said.

“We’ll see what the NFL does going forward.”

In her findings, Robinson wrote that her decision is limited by the record given to her by NFL investigators who were former prosecutors with decades of experience investigating sexual assault cases. It noted that Watson “worked with more than 60 massage therapists” during the period under consideration, and that the NFL “only investigated the allegations of 24 therapists suing Mr. Watson for damages.”

Of the 24, Robinson wrote that the NFL was only able to interview 12 alleged victims. They relied on the testimony of four of those twelve in the case before them for review.

Busby attacked the way the investigation was conducted.

“None of my clients tested before a federal judge. I think that’s a common misconception that four people testified. That’s not the case. None of them showed up. None of them were asked to come and testify,” he said. “Since those interviews, we have had absolutely no contact with the NFL.

Buzbee represented the women in civil cases against Watson, accusing him of sexual assault.

“They care about the bottom line. They care about making money,” Buzbee said on ESPN.

“They’re trying to manage this as a PR crisis, but as much as they’re trying to do anything to appease these women or women’s rights – or deal with women’s rights in general – it’s not part of their mission statement and they’re ‘we’ve made it clear in the process’.”

On Tuesday, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said it was “disappointed” with the decision to suspend Watson for just six games.

“The serious suspension of 6 matches reflects the flaws in our criminal justice systems and sends a dangerous message to our communities,” the organization said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “Often, those in positions of power and celebrities who perpetrate acts of violence against others are not held accountable for their actions.

“These ongoing headlines make a lot of sense. To survivors, we say we see you and believe you. Your story matters. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (7/24/365) is available online or by calling/texting (216) 619-6192.”

The ruling comes after a number of women who worked in the massage business filed lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions. Last month, 30 women filing or intending to file lawsuits against a Texas organization over Watson’s alleged misconduct settled their claims, according to a statement from Buzbee and Royal Texas.

Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler player, did not play last season when he was a member of the Houston Texans due to a commercial request as well as investigations into the allegations.

Days later, Brown traded three first-round picks to Watson and then signed him to a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, the most guaranteed amount in NFL history.

Watson will not be paid during his suspension, but Brown has structured his new contract so that his base salary will be $690,000 in his first year and then $46 million for each of the next four years.

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