When the Cleveland Browns chose to finally trade their quarterback, Deshaun Watson, it was most definitely the upgrade at quarterback for the Browns that managed to steal the spotlight of the action.
Starting back in March of 2021, there have been well over 22 civil cases brought to light against Watson for sexual assault and harassment throughout various massage appointments. While a grand jury in Texas failed to indict Watson on a series of nine criminal complaints in March of 2022, all of the civil cases are still pending.
The contract that Watson has, which is five years and $230 million, is fully guaranteed which seats it as by far the largest sum of guaranteed money for an NFL player, ever. There have been quite a few who have hurled questions around about the NFL’s commitment to taking actually taking these allegations targeting Watson seriously, but on Tuesday, the commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell stated to reporters that the league still has punishment on the table for Watson in regards to the sexual misconduct allegations.
“Our people are working on [the investigation],” Goodell claimed at the Annual League Meeting. “Obviously, these are serious charges. We’re looking at this seriously. We now have obviously at least resolution from the criminal side of it. Obviously there are still civil charges that are going on. So our investigators hopefully will have access to more information, and that will be helpful obviously in getting to the conclusion of what are the facts and was there a violation of the personal-conduct policy. But that determination will be made by a joint disciplinary officer that was established by the NFLPA and the NFL. She will make that decision when the facts are all in, and we’ll see. There’s no time frame on that.”
The personal conduct policy of the NFL stipulates that any player can be suspended for a minimum of six season games for “violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will result in a baseline six-game suspension without pay, with more if aggravating factors are present, such as the use of a weapon or a crime against a child.”
Goodell stated to reporters that the teams were well aware that the league still planned to continue its own investigations into Watson’s case, despite the fact that the grand jury chose to not indict Watson on the aforementioned criminal charges.
“We’ve been very clear with every club, whether the criminal matter gets resolved or not, the personal-conduct policy is something that’s very important to us,” claimed Goodell. “The personal-conduct policy does not need a criminal violation to be a violation of the personal-conduct policy. They recognize that that’s something we’re going to pursue. We’re going to make sure that we get to the bottom of the facts and make sure how it applies to the personal-conduct policy, that’s where we are at at this point. And when we get to that, a decision will be made on whether there should be any discipline and, if so, what is it.”
Quite a few members of the Cleveland organization released statements in the wake of the trade, stating that the team did its own extensive investigation and background check on the situation surrounding Watson’s too, and were well aware of the concerns surrounding the signing.
“Our organization did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun,” claimed Kevin Stefanski, the head coach of the Browns, in a release. “We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organization. It was important for us to meet with Deshaun in person as part of our team’s evaluation process, we had a candid conversation regarding his approach to coming into our organization and community. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to put in the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community.”
As of writing, the attorney that is representing the group of 22 women accusing Watson of harassment has stated that no one from the Browns has made any attempts to speak to him to gain any background research.