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Deshaun Watson Suspension Decision Proves NFL Still Doesn’t Care About Women

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Deshaun Watson

The NFL announced its long-anticipated but inadequate suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Monday morning, and it is very telling.

Watson faced civil lawsuits from 25 different women alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions.

The alleged incidents took place between March 2020 and March 2021. The Houston Texans, Watson’s former team, decided not to play him during the 2021 season amid ongoing investigations. 

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The Texans then traded Watson to the Browons in March 2022. Cleveland signed him to a five-year, fully-guaranteed deal worth $230 million shortly after acquiring him. However, his base salary in 2022 is just over $1 million, indicating that the Browns expected a lengthy suspension. 

Deshaun Watson is suspended for just six games with no fine. 

After months of anticipation, Judge Sue L. Robinson determined that Watson would only serve a six-game suspension to begin the 2022 season.

Robinson stated in her 15-page conclusion that, while Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy, there was not enough evidence to suspend him indefinitely like the league wanted.

In explaining the decision, Robinson called Watson’s pattern of behavior “egregious,” but said behavior being “nonviolent sexual conduct” warranted a less harsh punishment. 

Both the NFL and Watson’s camp presented their sides to Watson throughout the hearing. Robinson’s conclusion revealed that the NFL only presented four cases as evidence and interviewed 12 women throughout its investigation. Robinson also criticized the NFL for making claims based on public perception. 

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Despite the severity of the allegations against Watson, he is facing a shorter suspension than other players this season.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins received the same six-game ban after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in June. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is facing an indefinite suspension, including the entire 2022 season, for betting on games while away from the team.

The NFL has a history of going light on abusers.

In September 2015, the league suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice just two games after he was indicted on aggravated assault. The NFL only increased it to an indefinite suspension after TMZ released a video showing Rice punching his then-girlfriend in an elevator. 

Earlier that same year, the league also suspended Dallas Cowboys defensive end 10 games for domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. However, his suspension was reduced to four games following an appeal. Holder later shared graphic images of her injuries from the incident with Deadspin.

Fans shared their outrage over the “punishment” on social media. ProFootballTalk posted a poll asking whether or not fans agreed with the ruling. Of the nearly 30,000 people who voted, 79% said they disagreed with the decision.

Women who report on the NFL took to social media to voice their opinions on the decision, specifically on how the ruling affects women in the field. 

“Sending love to all the women who have to cover this Deshaun Watson ruling today,” the Atlantic’s Jemele Hill said on Twitter. “They’re going to face nonstop abuse from fans who are either upset that his suspension only was 6 games, or thought it should have been longer. Please don’t let these a–holes infect your spirit.”

“For a while now I've wondered if, as the number of allegations against Watson rose, ppl would become inured to the individual stories of sexual intimidation. Instead of regarding them as separate allegations, they became 20...22...24… Today's decision reinforces that belief,” ESPN’s Mina Kimes said on Twitter.

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Jonathan Alfano is a writer who focuses on news and entertainment topics. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with his content.

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