NFLPA, Deshaun Watson have decided to challenge a full-year suspension in court

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The eventual punishment, if any, imposed on Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will depend first on the decision of Judge Sue L. Robinson and then, if she imposes any discipline at all and the league appeals, the Commissioner or his designee. Eventually, the courts could get involved.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that the NFL Players Association and Watson’s camp already have decided to sue the league in federal court, if the end result of the process is a full-season suspension.

While the union and Watson are entitled to try, it won’t be easy to win. For starters, judges love it when private parties agree to their own procedures for resolving disputes. The NFL and the NFLPA negotiated the process of imposing discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy. Both sides agreed to revise the approach in 2020, with the disciplinary officer entering the calculation. As a general matter, courts won’t be inclined to burden themselves by second-guessing the unfolding of the steps crafted by management and labor — and the Federal Arbitration Act gives them cover to stay out of such battles.

Complicating matters is the history created by the cases resulting from the suspensions of Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott. Brady, after defeating his #Deflategate suspension in a Manhattan federal court, lost before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Elliott, who successfully circumvented the New York federal court system and the precedent of the Brady case, initially won relief in a Texas federal court from his Personal Conduct Policy suspension. However, it was determined that he had sued too quickly when he filed his case challenging the final decision of the league before the NFL could file a lawsuit attempting to defend it. The case reverted to the one the NFL filed in New York, and that was that.

That’s where the NFL has a built-in advantage. It can have the paperwork ready to file in the Southern District of New York, and it can press the button literally seconds after the internal ruling becomes official. Basically the league can easily win what is ultimately a rigged race to the courthouse.

The fact that the league and the union have negotiated a new CBA since the Elliot case will make it even harder to attack the current procedures. If there were serious concerns regarding the rules and regulations for imposing discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy, the union could have addressed them when hammering out the new terms. To prevail, the NFLPA will need to show that the league violated its own rules and regulations, in some way.

It won’t be enough to say, “We don’t like the final decision.” Both sides agreed that the disciplinary officer makes the first decision, that the Commissioner or his designee handle the appeal, and that the decision on appeal is final. The federal courts aren’t supposed to be the next level of appeal. The case is supposed to be over. Thus, based on the Brady and Elliott cases, it won’t be easy for Watson to get a federal court to overturn a one-year suspension, if that’s the final result of the agreed internal procedure.

35 responses to “NFLPA, Deshaun Watson have decided to challenge a full-year suspension in court

  1. This is going to be fun. I truly want this dirtbag thrown out of the sport. Nothing about him is savory.

  2. Give him 2 years let him appeal it down to 1 year. But 1 year isn’t enough for someone who had used his status and money to prey on massage therapists for years.

  3. Just goes to show how much of a clown he is. He really thinks he did nothing wrong. I don’t think a year would be enough. He need intensive counselling in order to get the understanding needed.

  4. This guy DW just doesn’t get it at all and how he treats these women, because the cash he’s paid out won’t have hurt him.

    Two years for me wouldn’t be too much

  5. The NFL players association signed an agreement that gives Goodell final say on appeal.

    I can’t think of anything dumber.

  6. If they file, they are truly only hoping to force the NFL to negotiate a lessor suspension to make it end without any further public information coming out or to get the suspension stayed for a while to try and play/get paid.

  7. He should get the year plus mandatory intensive therapy, or he will continue with this behavior toward women.

  8. and just think, all of this for only a half a dozen draft picks & 230 million Guaranteed!!…

  9. The players AGREED to the rules when they signed their last CBA. If they wanted someone OTHER than the commissioner having the final say then they should have BARGAINED for that during the last negotiations, but they didn’t do that, and now they wanna cry about it? It’s unbelievable, and this story is being put out there now because Watson, and his cheerleaders know he’s about to have the hammer dropped on him!!

  10. Unless the judge says that there should be no punishment, Roger Goodell can impose any penalty he wants. That’s what the NFLPA agreed to in the CBA.

  11. Thank You Cleveland for those 3 first round picks now this quitter weirdo is your problem..Guaranteed

  12. If the NFLPA doesn’t like the dispute resolution process they need to change it in the CBA, which ironically they did in the last round of negotiations. Now they don’t like the procedure they bargained for in the contract? Good luck getting a judge to buy that argument.

  13. Is it too much to hope that Goodell does the RIGHT thing should the judge rule that Watson gets no punishment? Probably, but it would send a message to women everywhere that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. That’s how it should be, anyway.

  14. For those of you demanding proof. Short of having a video camera in the rooms what kind of proof would even exist? Sounds like there is plenty of DNA.

  15. The CBA states owners and management are held to a higher standard. The NFL needs to follow that language of the CBA or answer in court in my opinion. The NFLPA must push for equal treatment of union members and owners! I’m telling you Roger is pushing for no punishment so he can say not my fault and be done with it.

  16. More meaningless PR crap from Watson’s legal team, which is either just trying to work the ref or maybe to sound tough so Watson feels represented. Just as the NFL wanted to sound tough if they, rather than DW’s camp, leaked the penalty sought by the league. The parallel between Kraft and Watson that sounds persuasive on twitter will be laughed out of court by any federal judge, and Watson (unlike Brady) has no conceivable case based on procedural rules-at least so far.

  17. My understanding is if this judge says no punishment then the league can’t do anything to him it can’t be challenged by the league look I agree what he did is terrible however the league looks the other way when it’s an owner. League can’t win here

  18. Based on the 6 games Ben got, this dude should be suspended for 2 seasons.

  19. They should suspend him for a year: just like they’re going to do to Snyder. That’s going to be the basis of Watson’s case. And he’s right – Snyder’ at least as big a creep as Watson, just richer.

  20. The last I heard, Watson gets paid whether he plays or not. If that is still the case I am not sure if he really cares if he plays.

  21. Watching the NFLPA hang itself…because if they do this, the next CBA will not be pretty for them

  22. They didn’t say challenge the suspension. They said “sue the league” if he’s suspended an entire year. CBA says owners are help to a higher standard. Thank the Commish when DW doesn’t get suspended. It was he who failed to hold 2-3 owners to same standard.

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