Just two weeks ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Deshaun Watson’s league investigation is over.
The investigation into allegations of varying degrees of sexual assault and misconduct was approaching its 15th month, and the league had secured interviews with more than half of the women with pending civil claims against Watson and investigators questioned the Cleveland Browns quarterback for three days, concluding. Meetings on a note suggest that a decision was imminent.
“I believe we are nearing the end of the investigation period, after which it will be dealt with by our discipline officer,” Goodell said on May 24.
Since then: The ‘Real Sports’ report features interviews with two of Watson’s accusers, a new pair of lawsuits that bring the total of Watson’s pending lawsuits to 24 and the New York Times report comprehensively detailing the allegations regarding the midfielder’s conduct, as well as the allegations against those who may have enabled it.
this Much of information within two weeks, even if it is fair to assume that university investigators have already discovered some of the allegations that the public is now familiar with. But it also leads to fair questions.
Could Roger Goodell put Deshaun Watson on the list of exempt commissioners?
If only a small amount of new information is presented to the NFL in the past two weeks, can it reasonably close the investigation when it appears that the number of Watson’s civil cases could continue to rise in the coming months? And if the league can’t reasonably finish its investigation, should Goodell make use of the commissioner’s waivers list, which is a more comprehensive tool than many have formulated?
For its part, the association has not commented on the investigation, except to say that it is ongoing. This has been the party line for the entire past fifteen months.
As for the commissioners’ exemption list, the NFL doesn’t say anything at all. This can be understood in two ways: Either the league is falling behind on what Goodell said on March 29 – when he said Watson would not be included in the exemption list – or it means the league is keeping its options open as potential circumstances change.
Here’s what Goodell had to say about Watson and the list of exemptions in March:
“The civil cases have been under consideration for the past year,” Goodell said. “The only thing that has changed is that the criminal element has at least been resolved, and that was an important element in the context of the commissioner’s exemption list as discussed with the players union. … If the offender was [complaints] I might, probably, raise the commissioner’s exemption. I think at this point the civil cause per se would not do that. If there is a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy… that is more likely [will] It evokes a kind of discipline in a way.”
In plain English for everyone to understand: Goodell is the basis of the waiver list – which is essentially a paid suspension – as a tool that will only be used if the season has started and Watson is under a criminal investigation. He clearly does not count, in his own words, civil cases as invocations of the list of exceptions. It’s worth noting that it also says “as discussed with the players union”.
But here’s exactly what the exception list rule states in terms of when it applies:
“First, when a player is formally accused of a violent crime, meaning that he or she is accused of using physical force or a weapon to harm or threaten another person, or of engaging in sexual assault or sexual assault of a person who was unable to give consent, or engaging in other conduct that constitutes A real danger to the safety or well-being of another person, or engaging in animal abuse. The formal charges may be in the form of an indictment by a grand jury, the filing of charges by the attorney general, or the filing of an indictment in criminal court..
“Second, when an authorized investigation leads to the belief that a player may have violated this Policy by committing any of the behavior specified above, it may act when circumstances and evidence warrant doing so. This decision will not reflect the outcome of a conviction or acquittal and will not be guided by the same standards and legal considerations that apply in a criminal trial.“
Focus on the line “He may have violated this policy by committing any of the behavior specified above.”
Following this request and guided by interviews and evidence accessed by the league, Goodell basically has a checklist of questions about what “maybe” Watson did:
Has he used physical force or a weapon to harm or threaten another person?
Has he or she been involved in a forcible sexual assault or sexual assault of a person unable to give consent?
May he have engaged in another conduct that poses a real danger to the safety or well-being of another person?
If investigators determine that Watson “may” have violated any of these criteria, Goodell has an argument for placing Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list. The rule basically proves this point with a written follow-up declaration in clear legal form:
“This decision will not reflect proof of guilt or innocence and will not be guided by the same standards and legal considerations that apply in a criminal trial.. “
Of course, all this can also be a moot point.
Recent discoveries may not be new to the NFL
It makes sense that a multibillion-dollar company like the NFL would have the money and investigative expertise to buy everything and more than was published in the New York Times on Tuesday. It also makes sense that the NFL investigation itself could have already secured interviews with the two defendants who appeared on Real Sports, as well as the two women who brought lawsuits 23 and 24. Not to mention, the league could have received copies of all of Watson’s completed deposits. , parts of which have now been leaked to a few news organizations.
If the league really does have these things on hand, Goodell’s feelings about the commissioner’s exempt slate and Watson’s future remain intact. But only because the league knows everything that exists in the public space and much more through its own work.
If that happens, then the investigation moves to its final stage and a verdict is made as to whether or not Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
If the NFL has been surprised in the past two weeks, if there are elements in lawsuits or reports that are new information, a quick decision on Watson’s NFL future will reflect the quarterback’s legal future.
More complicated than the week.