The Browns $230M dollar man isn’t being charged criminally, but how will public perception look going forward?
As the news broke last week that former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was headed out of Houston, it raised many questions about what’s next. The NFL’s investigation is still chugging along as slow as molasses, which means there is still the question as to when he will even be allowed to play again. Watson, now the Cleveland Browns quarterback, has a fully guaranteed $230 million contract, for the next five years.
That’s right, the NFL’s investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct during massage sessions is still open. Even though the grand jury decided on March 11 against charging Watson criminally, the Browns now will have to deal with this for, at least, the near future, as his legal battles continue with the 22 civil suits alleging abuse.
Even if Watson can somehow stay away from a civil trial by settling those cases, paying his accusers, and cutting a deal so they’ll keep quiet it will still cause damage to not only Watson’s already soiled reputation but also to a team that decided to throw the bank at him knowing what baggage would be following home.
The Browns’ owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, on the other hand, have made it clear that they feel they did an extensive enough investigation before making the blockbuster trade and the amount of money they spent would cause some to think they don’t expect a very long suspension, if any, to come down from the NFL. They tweeted the following statement about the trade.
As far as the NFL goes, some feel tha league commissioner, Roger Goodell’s, actions have already shown what they might be planning to do by not doing much at all. He could have looked at all of the publicly known allegations and sent a strong message by putting Watson on leave for violating the league’s conduct policy no matter what happened with the legal fight.
Instead, from NFL headquarters, all thats been said is that they are still conducting their own investigation. One thing that has not helped with the perception of the league’s actions and caused even more criticism about Watson’s case are facts like Antonio Brown being allowed to continue playing for Tampa Bay while he faced sexual harassment accusations and a lawsuit accusing him of rape. They also stood idle while one of their foundational teams, Washington, and it’s owner, Daniel Snyder, had numerous accounts of harassment from over a dozen ladies.
Watson’s guilt or innocence in public opinion is not going to be helped by these facts and that it appears the NFL is questionable in their actions (to say the least) when it comes to standing up for the rights of women. Another thing that hurts is that there are plenty of other stories just like those above in the NFL to prove to help those that believe he to is guilty.
One case that some have looked at as a similar comparison is the 2010 incident where former Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was suspended for six games without pay for violating the personal conduct policy. Even after prosecutors decided not to press charges against him in a case involving a college student who accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub.
That suspension was later reduced to four games after Roethlisberger underwent a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals and stayed out of trouble in the months following the accusation. There is one huge difference though. The fact that Roethlisberger‘s case involved one complainant while Watson’s involves 22.
At this point, there are still a lot more questions than answers and many will be watching to see if the former national champion will be playing the game he loves as early as this fall, serving as low as a 4 game suspension, find out that missing last season served as his punishment, or if the league will take some other action.
Even after those questions are answered it’s still gonna be a long, hard road for him to regain his name, if he ever truly can, and even though no one knows the complete stories behind these other cases, from the outside looking in the league’s perception with cases like this can’t help Watson.
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