NFL’s statement on Deshaun Watson leaves door open for paid leave at any time

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans
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Some believed that the failure of the NFL to promptly place Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on paid leave when he reported for training camp on Sunday meant that the league won’t do it. The statement issued Tuesday by the league proves how incorrect that conclusion was.

“The NFL’s review of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson remains ongoing and active,” the NFL said. “We are working cooperatively with the Houston Police Department and ensuring that the NFL’s inquiry does not interfere with their investigation. As we continue to gather additional information and monitor law enforcement developments, we will make appropriate decisions consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. At this time there are no restrictions on Watson’s participation in club activities.”

The statement never expressly says it, but the message is unmistakable. The decision to not place Watson on paid leave can change, based on additional information that may become available.

As a practical matter, the league is always one news item away from deciding to place Watson on the Commissioner Exempt list. One additional fact, one additional allegation, one additional development, one additional interview or statement could be the one that causes the NFL to conclude that the kitchen has gotten too hot.

Remember, the Personal Conduct Policy and the paid leave provision of it weren’t created by the NFL to revolutionize the notion of meting out justice in a fair and orderly way. It’s a PR tool. It’s about policing the private lives of players in order to placate those who would say as to a given player, “How can that person be on an NFL roster?”

The paid leave provision, developed seven years ago, creates a path to parking a player based simply on allegations, when those allegations (and the prospect of broadcast partners discussing them during a game) become too much for the league to bear. The standard for invoking it, then, isn’t based on precedent or objectivity or basic notions of justice. Paid leave happens when the league decides that the situation has become too awkward, too uncomfortable, too embarrassing to keep the player around.

The presumption of innocence doesn’t matter. The various protections under the Constitution don’t matter. The league, foolishly insisting that paid leave doesn’t amount to punishment (not letting a football player play football unquestionably is punishment), will send a guy home when the league decides that his mere presence places a patina on Big Shield.

As to Watson, time will tell whether the league gets to the point where it says, “Enough.” If/when (likely, when) the criminal complaints are presented to a grand jury, will that be the point? Will it happen if/when he’s indicted for one or more crimes? Will it happen if more lawsuits are filed?

Regardless of how it happens, the point is that it can happen. And that reality needs to be considered by the Texans and any interested teams when it comes to potentially trading his contract.

10 responses to “NFL’s statement on Deshaun Watson leaves door open for paid leave at any time

  1. This is what happens in labor deals. Concessions are made by both sides that you agreed to. Howard signed a contract in 2019 that he now claims he didn’t fully understand. That’s why you pay for an agent. I have 0 sympathy for a guy who signed 76m dollar extension 2 years ago, claiming he’s not happy.
    I’m not one for “athletes make to much money” garbage but you signed the contract. It was most likely fair market rate or better when you signed it. You haven’t outperformed it so give it a rest.

  2. Who gave him the advice to NOT settle these?? He should be suing that lawyer or agent. I’m guessing though they did tell him that but he decided to fight it. So shortsighted. At this point he can’t settle and he is forever damaged goods.

  3. The NFL has reviewed the case to this point and is sitting still. Tells me the NFL doesn’t find the info they’ve reviewed as toxic as all the armchair henchman on social media do.

  4. You keep using the phrase paid leave which sounds intentionally innocuous. People take paid leave all the time as they are typically called vacation days. This is completely different. Yes, the player is innocent until proven guilty but the allegations are numerous and ominous. If he is placed on the exempt list it isn’t akin to a vacation. It is the Commissioner saying what may have been done is so vile or looks so bad that he does not want the player anywhere near the team/coaches/facilities, etc.

  5. He should be allowed to play……it is going to be in the news anyway. If found guilty or settlement, then suspended for no-pay.

  6. This whole situation is a damn shame. This guy had the world by the tail. Wanna believe the dude isn’t guilty, but 20+ individuals making identical allegations, is tough to explain away. It’s a tragic shame all around man.

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