A slow Saturday on the NFL calendar has picked up considerably.
With the NFL knowing that coverage of all things Deshaun Watson is unavoidable, the league steered the emergence of reports into a window where they could be less noticed.
And here we are. At 6:05 p.m. ET, the Wall Street Journal posted an item from Andrew Beaton that contains this extremely noteworthy nugget. The league “is pushing for an indefinite suspension that would last no shorter than one year for Watson.”
Watson and the NFL Players Association, which has a duty under federal law to defend Watson and all members of the union, will fight it. As PFT has reported, one of the tacks they will take is to argue that the proposed punishment does not mesh with discipline or lack thereof for multiple owners who allegedly have run afoul of the Personal Conduct Policy. Beaton’s article confirms this specific report.
By pushing for an indefinite suspension, the league would be protected against the possibility that more women will sue Watson between now and the middle of March 2023, when all relevant two-year statutes of limitations will expire — assuming that Watson ceased the practice of securing private massages through social-media after the first lawsuit was filed in March 2021.
The league’s case, per Beaton, will focus on five of the women who have sued Watson. Those cases have corroboration from text messages and other evidence. “League officials believe those allegations in particular are objectively provable and establish a clear and disturbing pattern of behavior from Watson,” Beaton writes.
Multiple reports have pegged the commencement of the hearing before Judge Sue L. Robinson for Tuesday, June 28. It’s unclear how long the process will take. An effort by the NFLPA to defend Watson based on the actions, and consequences, of owners like Daniel Snyder, Robert Kraft, and Jerry Jones will necessarily delay the process. Nevertheless, Watson has an absolute right to argue that his punishment should be commensurate with other cases.
Along the way, the NFLPA could uncover some evidence that would be of particular interest to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Reform, which is trying to get full access to the investigation conducted by attorney Beth Wilkinson regarding the Commanders and owner Daniel Snyder. It’s impossible to know whether Snyder’s punishment properly fit the misconduct without knowing the full scope of the misconduct.