BEREA, Ohio — Deshaun Watson’s suspension has been increased from six games to 11, and he will pay a $5 million fine to the NFL, which had sought a harsher penalty for the Browns quarterback. The agreement was reached by settlement.
At the request of the NFL, Watson’s case was under review by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey after the league appealed the Aug. 1 decision by Sue L. Robinson, an independent disciplinary officer who recommended the NFL suspend Watson for six games.
Robinson’s suspension decision followed the NFL’s investigation into allegations made by women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment. The NFL was hoping for a stricter decision and a fine for Watson.
"We've seen the evidence, [Robinson] was very clear about the evidence, she reinforced the evidence,'' said Commissioner Roger Goodell on August 9. "There were multiple violations that were egregious and it was predatory behavior.'”
Watson's was the first case heard by Robinson as part of the new league discipline policy agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2020. As per the CBA, violations of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy are initially determined by a jointly appointed disciplinary officer after serving as the hearing officer.
In her 16-page ruling, Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, called Watson’s behavior “egregious” and “predatory,” as Goodell reiterated in his comments Tuesday. The women alleged he sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them during massage therapy sessions when the quarterback played for the Houston Texans.
The former federal judge concluded that Watson violated the league's policy by engaging in unwanted sexual contact with another person, endangering the safety and well-being of another person and undermining the league’s integrity.
However, in imposing the suspension, Robinson pointed out flaws in the league's guidelines for player misconduct, which limited her authority to penalize him.
Leading up to the decision, Watson and the NFLPA announced that they would not be appealing Robinson’s decision no matter the outcome and urged the league to do the same, but the NFL did not comply with that request.
One day before Watson started in the Browns' first pre-season game against the Jaguars, sources confirmed to the Associated Press that Watson proposed an eight-game suspension and a $5 million fine to settle the matter and avoid missing the 2022 season.
Then, hours before the game on Friday, Watson publicly expressed remorse and contrition for the first time since he was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting the women during therapy sessions in 2020 and 2021.
Watson apologized “to all the women I have impacted” after being accused by two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
The settlement reached between the league and Watson will be signed Thursday, but has been agreed to by both parties, sources said.