The NFL appealed the six-game suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Wednesday, according to a league spokesman.
The league appealed the fine handed down Monday by a third-party disciplinary officer after hearing allegations that Watson engaged in sexual coercion and lewd behavior toward two dozen women hired for massages.
Following the process set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, the appeal will be heard by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee. The league did not immediately say who would oversee the appeal.
Sue L. Robinson, a retired federal judge appointed jointly by the NFL and the players’ union to oversee the disciplinary hearing, found that Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy by engaging in unwanted sexual contact with another person, endangering the safety and welfare of the player. Presence of another person and undermining the integrity of the NFL. He said in his 16-page report that Watson’s behavior, which he called “predatory” and “disgusting,” might have merited a stiffer penalty, but that it was limited by league policy and his past disciplinary record.
Watson denied the charges against him, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him. Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said they will “continue to support” the quarterback, who was given a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract in March.
The players’ union previously said it would not appeal Robinson’s decision, but after the suspension was announced Monday, the NFL released a statement saying it would review its findings and “make a decision on next steps” within three business days of the CBA. enables challenges.
The six-game suspension drew criticism from Tony Busby, the attorney who represents most of Watson’s accusers, as well as sports law experts and advocates for victims of sexual assault. The league argued to Robinson that Watson deserved at least a full-year suspension, while the union fought for a lesser penalty.
The league began investigating Watson in March 2021, when Ashley Solis, a licensed massage therapist in Houston, became the first of 24 women to file a lawsuit against him. The women said that during massages in 2020 and 2021, when Watson played for the Houston Texans, he assaulted or harassed them. In a brief sent to Robinson, the league wrote that Watson “used his status as an NFL player as an excuse to engage in premeditated predatory behavior toward multiple women.”