(Fwrd Axis) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended six games for a “egregious” act of “sexualized contact” with massage therapists, the league ruled on Monday.
Retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson presided over the disciplinary hearing and issued the decision. Robinson ruled that there’s “sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the NFL’s contention” that Deshaun Watson had sexual contact with several massage therapists. She added the quarterback “knew such sexualized contact was unwanted”.
Despite the NFL wanting to suspend Watson for all of the 2022 season, she called that option “unfair”.
“It is inherently unfair to identify conduct as prohibited only after the conduct has been committed, just as it is inherently unjust to change the penalties for such conduct after the fact,” she said. “According to the NFL, if this recommended sentence is unprecedented (as characterized by Mr. Watson and the NFLPA), that is because his conduct is unprecedented.”
“Mr. Watson is hereby suspended for six (6) regular-season games without pay,” she ruled. “Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
The NFL released a statement confirming they are evaluating the ruling.
“We appreciate Judge Robinson’s diligence and professionalism throughout this process,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “In light of her findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps.”
The New York Times found Watson had scheduled appointments with 66 different women. Watson has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits and the alleged assaults took place between from March 2020 to March 2021, while Watson was playing with the Houston Texans.
If his suspension is upheld, Watson will still be able to participate in practices and games during the preseason.