NFL should place Deshaun Watson on Commissioner Exempt list

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The NFL first devised the concept of paid leave as a device for getting controversial players off the field at a time when games are being played. In the offseason, the league generally if not exclusively has avoided using the Commissioner Exempt list, since there are no football activities from which to bar a player. (In 2019, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill voluntarily stayed away from offseason program while an investigation occurred regarding an injury suffered by his son. Hill was cleared, and he returned for training camp.)

Fewer than seven years after the NFL first adopted paid leave as a device for handling players who face allegations that have not yet resulted in a criminal conviction, a civil verdict, or some other disposition, the league faces a situation that cannot be ignored until football activities commence later in the year. The 22 civil cases and at least two criminal complaints against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, coupled with the possibility of more allegations and a potential federal sex trafficking investigation, require the NFL to do something other than issue a perfunctory statement that says, basically, “We take it very seriously but we’re going to wait and see what happens.”

Tuesday’s press conference gave inherent credibility to the claims against Watson. Although he still has all privileges, presumptions, and protections in court, the league created paid leave as a way to handle players who are both presumed innocent and embroiled in a situation that, by its mere existence, reflects poorly on the NFL. These allegations, by their mere existence, reflect poorly on the NFL.

The Personal Conduct Policy itself emerged from the league’s broader P.R. interests, and every decision made when it comes to applying the policy takes the anticipated P.R. reaction into account. As a general matter, the league believes that there’s no reason to put a player on paid leave during the offseason because the mere act of doing so creates a major headline that will ricochet throughout the Internet and social media.

At some point, the rule must yield to an exception. In this case, an exception should be made. There are too many claims that have been filed, too many fronts on which the legal fights will be waged, too many blunders from Watson’s camp in the court of public opinion, where the battle in many respects already has been lost.

At this point, the league’s failure to act fairly can be interpreted as an unwillingness to take the matter seriously. At this point, a statement isn’t enough. At this point, the latest statement from the league — which uses the words “deeply disturbing” when describing the allegations — means nothing unless the league flips the switch that the league has specifically created for situations like this.

Placement on paid leave won’t simply protect The Shield against attack from those who would say the league isn’t doing enough in response to this landslide of legal issues targeting Watson. It also could be the wakeup call Watson needs to realize that, regardless of whether he believes he did nothing wrong, a reckoning is necessary. A resolution is necessary. A sense that justice has been done for all 22 of the alleged victims is necessary.

Digging in and fighting only works if you’re 100-percent certain that you’re right, and that you can prove it. Absent that level of clarity and justifiable confidence, the best move is to stop fighting, to accept responsibility, to endure the consequences, and to seek true redemption. At this point, placement on the Commissioner Exempt list may be the only thing that gets Watson to realize that it’s time to stop challenging the credibility of the victims and to start making things right, for his 22 accusers and ultimately for himself.

47 responses to “NFL should place Deshaun Watson on Commissioner Exempt list

  1. “It also could be the wakeup call Watson needs to realize that, regardless of whether he believes he did nothing wrong, a reckoning is necessary. A resolution is necessary. A sense that justice has been done for all 22 of the alleged victims is necessary.”
    ______________

    The problem in this is the word “alleged.” If they’re not “actual” victims they don’t deserve any justice at all. Let’s just pretend for fun he’s totally innocent: You’d actually punish the guy for not admitting guilt/coming to a settlement? The minute it became clear that was the NFL’s policy half the league would be facing accusations of everything you can think of. It may not be PR friendly to wait for the courts to sort things out but it certainly beats the alternative.

  2. This is really a difficult situation. First off he IS INNOCENT until proven guilty. But these are some crazy allegations and it does feel like something should be done.

  3. Outside parties are always in judgement of others lest letting anyone see their own shadowy lifestyle.

  4. The NFL has punished the innocent before. The exempt list is a good start until they get a clearer picture of what took place. This looks bad, but it doesn’t always mean it is bad. He is entitled to defend himself in court, but the NFL can exempt him until that is settled. That is fair, I think.

  5. Instead of paying him, the money should be put in escrow. If he is cleared of everything he receives the money, if he is not he should not receive anything.

  6. The accusers need to give deposition under oath before the league takes such definitive action

  7. Tyrod Taylor grabs his popcorn, keeps scrolling thr news, waiting for another chance to start.

  8. His own lawyer made a tremendous blunder in posting email exchanges which acknowledge a willingness to pay some settlement and that perhaps their client needs to lear n a lesson from this.

    Now this doesn’t legitimize 22 claims, but if he did this once, is it so unreasonable to believe that he may have done it multiple times?

  9. No matter how this turns out or what the league does, the life he once knew is over and his once meteoric career is now a crater. Talk about a self-inflicted disaster. It destroyed his image and will cost him millions.

    Up next is the apology tour.

  10. I could be wrong but I’m thinking the NFL is worried about placing him on the exempt list because theres no telling how long until those civil cases go to trial. In an earlier story you said most civil cases go to trial between 18 to 24 months from filing,

  11. If Houston had traded him for three first round draft choices one week before the story broke, would or could the league void the trade?

  12. ghjjf says:
    April 7, 2021 at 10:27 am

    Instead of paying him, the money should be put in escrow. If he is cleared of everything he receives the money, if he is not he should not receive anything.

    ===============

    I agree with this. Or require that anything paid now will have to be paid back if he is found to be guilty. Investigation of criminal charges shouldn’t come with a monetary reward. None of these guys need their new money to pay their bills.

    Clearly, the Texans would cut him if these charges are shown to have merit. It seems crazy that he should be paid in the meantime.

  13. The Texans should suspend him immediately for conduct detrimental to the organization, and let him take them to court if he thinks he deserves to be paid. No way should he be paid while these sickening allegations are investigated

  14. All of these people posting about his career are missing the big picture here. FORGET ABOUT FOOTBALL these are serious allegations. He should be worried about his freedom at this point. Football is the least of his worries.

  15. No, they need to do an investigation.
    You can’t punish someone just because some PR people are spinning a story.
    If the FL starts interviewing these women and things there is enough smoke, then take action.
    Don’t take action because a media savy lawyer / PR person throws out dirt.

  16. He is lucky he has not been arrested and denied bail the way some defendants have been treated on similar charges.

  17. Why rush? Let the case play out. Opening up one roster spot for the Texans with an off-season 90 man roster won’t help.

    I don’t understand the need to make the NFL the center of justice, there is a legal system for a reason and right now he is in a pending case.

    If the season started today or was a month away I could understand the need to put him on the exempt list but we are 5 months away with only allegations at this point.

  18. I think more players have been put on the exempt list before civil or criminal proceedings have been finalized, or guilt admitted, than those that have. For those that keep harping on due process — those legal principals don’t apply to privately bargained contractual relationships; rather, the terms of the contract control the procedure .

  19. They will 100% put him on the Commissioner Exempt list, but doing it now literally means nothing. He is not being paid anything right now and there are no football activities for another few months. The criminal investigation literally just started and I’m sure the league is investigating as well. In a few weeks/months we could be talking about him going to jail, let alone whether he’ll play this year.

  20. Notice the league office is always waiting as they are so concerned and going to look into something. They showed their cards when they allowed Brown to continue to play when they found out he was in trouble as he threw a bike at a security guard and looked the other way

  21. And Watson SHOULD NOT be rewarded with being paid on his mega deal while this process unfolds. The NFL is pretty good about not doing things until they have to. There is no reason to do anything here right now. They can let the process play out for a bit.

    Also – No real NFL investigation is going to take place with all the litigation pending. No attorney is going to want clients talking to the NFL – more client talking = more risk. Neither side. And while Deshaun might have an obligation to say something to the NFL, the plaintiffs do not.

  22. Why do you push so hard for the exempt list mike? You need to call it what it is: paid vacation.

  23. I don’t agree with Exempt list. The only person punished in the Exempt list is the Texans.

    They have to pay Watsom to sit at home and dig himself out of a hole of his own creation.

  24. icouldcareless says:
    April 7, 2021 at 11:01 am

    The Texans should suspend him immediately for conduct detrimental to the organization, and let him take them to court if he thinks he deserves to be paid. No way should he be paid while these sickening allegations are investigated

    ————————————————————————-

    That would be meaningless at this point as he’s not due to be paid anything until September.

  25. It’s time for Rog to get Ted Wells on this case. He will get to the bottom of things.

  26. No they should not. Not until he is charged with a crime by an objective body. Not accused of a crime by a questionable attorney.

  27. nhpats2011 says:
    April 7, 2021 at 11:57 am
    It’s time for Rog to get Ted Wells on this case. He will get to the bottom of things.
    _____________

    It is more likely than not that Deshaun Watson had some knowledge of the alleged events.
    $5 mil, please.

  28. With all due respect, how would paying him millions of dollars while relieving him of his responsibilities to the team encourage him to accept responsibility? I would think that it would remove economic pressure while at the same time freeing him up to focus on fighting the allegations, which could take years. As long as Watson is getting paid, why shouldn’t he fight?

  29. See how fast he’s dropped if word comes down that the police are referring the case to the district attorney for charges. He’s in serious trouble folks this isn’t a smear campaign as some are suggesting. These women have a right to be heard, and now that one of them has spoken publicly you might see more of them step forward to tell their story. The ship has sailed as far as settling this case quickly and quietly. Even if he settles what team wants to make him the face of their franchise. It’s over

  30. Credible witness. It might have been more touching if it came from her heart and not written by Buzzbee.

  31. Personally, I dont like the exemption list because it puts pressure on the player to find a fast resolution rather than justice. I also dont like that players are suspended after being put on the exemption list.

    It seems unfair that players are suspended during the investigation, and usually suspended again after the resolution

  32. He won’t see the field this year no matter what. He’ll be too busy with court cases.

  33. Texans better go get a QB soon! I guarantee he will never plat for them again! Or anyone else either!

  34. Perhaps if this case is true we would now know why he wanted out of Houston so fast.Bill…and of course you are guilty until proven otherwise. Right ?

  35. The real question is why has it still not happened? That is the NFL’s safety net till all issues are resolved to their satisfaction. With sponsors bolting and more women coming out with identical accusations, they should do it ASAP to send a message that football players are accountable as well. I don’t understand why they should wait. If he is found to be innocent (doubtful), they can always remove him from the exempt list and reinstate him no?

  36. Like it or not, the man is innocent until proven guilty. If you are so sure that he is guilty just cut the man and do not use his services, otherwise he should be allowed to defend himself while being assumed innocent

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