Making sense of the Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Calvin Ridley suspensions

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One of the more common questions raised in response to Judge Sue L. Robinson’s decision to suspend Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games flows from a fairly obvious set of comparisons.

How does Watson, who faced 24 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions, get suspended only six games when Cardinal receiver DeAndre Hopkins was suspended six games for trace amounts of a PED he claims he didn’t know he ingested and Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended a whole season for making $1,500 in parlay wagers?

On the surface, the answer is easy. These three players were suspended under three completely different policies: Personal Conduct, PED, and gambling.

There’s a more nuanced explanation. The PED policies and gambling policies go directly to the integrity of the game, whether by cheating in it or betting on it. The Personal Conduct Policy relates to off-duty behavior, conduct that has no connection to the league’s core business interests.

The vast majority of American employers don’t, won’t, and can’t police the private lives of their employees. If an employee faces multiple civil lawsuits unrelated to his workplace behavior and/or if he’s investigated but never charged with any crime(s), the employer has no cause to do anything.

The NFL has cause to do something to players like Watson because the league and the NFL Players Association have agreed that the NFL can and should investigate and discipline players who get in trouble away from work. Despite the inherent flaws (such as the inability to force non-employees of the league or its teams to cooperate), the NFL has the right — and feels an obligation t0 — take action against employees who have gotten into certain types of trouble.

And remember this. First, the NFL focused only on four cases, not 24. Second, the NFL has the right to appeal the ruling to (checks notes) the NFL, and in turn to impose a much greater suspension than Judge Robinson’s six games.

So while the comparisons are understandable, there’s a reason for the differences in treatment of Watson and Hopkins/Ridley. For many, however, those subtleties will be irrelevant.

48 responses to “Making sense of the Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Calvin Ridley suspensions

  1. The Ridley situation is absolutely right. Doesn’t matter how or who he bet on. YOu have to throw the book at any player who bet on games. Hopkins saying he unknowingly used PEDS. That is the standard excuse. Nothing new there as everyone says that. But giving Watson the same suspension as Hopkins is ridiculous. Hopefully he will continue to be a QB with good stats but no real on field success> That’s what Haslam and any Browns fan that can cheer for Watson deserves.

  2. When are the criminal charges going to be filed?

    Since a lot of the readers here feel he is a predator.

  3. I have thought the same thing during this whole process. I know gambling as an athlete is a big no no, but we didn’t even hear about Ridley doing this, there was no judge, jury it happened asap that he was out of the NFL a year. And then you have Watson, he gets 6 games for what he did. Doesn’t seem right on the human scale.

  4. I wouldn’t try to make sense of it. It’s the NFL. Alvin Kamara is on video pummeling a dude with his posse. I’m sure he’ll get 3 or 4 games. They’ll just throw more money into the NFL Cares pot and hide while the backlashes smooth over. The NFL has historically employed criminals and malcontents. They can’t over punish players because then they’ll lose their player pipeline.

  5. The problem with your logic of not policing private lives outside of work, is that it is different when the perpetrator is stating they are a representative of said work place. He claimed to be an NFL player and so it is logical for the massage therapists to think they may get more business from other NFL players if he is satisfied with her services. No different than if I commit fraud on an outside company claiming to represent another company they may be interested in working with in the future. In that respect, the employer can police their employees and charge them as they see fit, even including law enforcement.

  6. Ricky Williams and Josh Gordon got more time over marijuana. Big shield dont care about your problems

  7. Did Ridley and Hopkins go through the same outside judge process as Watson? It would be helpful to know that in order to compare outcomes. And if they did it would helpful to have links to those reports for our reading. This article should have touched on that. After reading Robinson’s decision, it’s clear that she maintained a pretty solid line of reasoning while using the official NFL policies and the CBA as her framework. That would mean that Ridley and Hopkins are the ones to be looked into closer.

  8. But we will be able to compare Kamara’s expected suspension since that will also be under the Personal Conduct policy.

  9. Brady and Belichick cheated the integrity of the game and received 4 and 0 game’s respectively. What they did was more harmful than either Hopkins or Ridley

  10. Except the NFL argued, and Judge Robinson accepted, that Watson had created damage to the integrity of the league through his actions.

  11. Keep in mind the judge also took into account and gave Watson credit for the year he lost last year. But, she also found that he had committed sexual assaults, lied about it to her and showed no remorse. Even giving him credit for last year 1 year and 6 games seems really light.

  12. Stats with no success. That is Watson. Listen to his interview. A NFL team paid him a quarter billion? Go Browns. Lol

  13. I believe Hopkins. The substance he had a tiny minute trace of in his body is found in shampoo and dozens of other household products. When you’re doping you need significant amounts for it to be effective. And the NFL retracted that any masking agent was used.

  14. Read the decision. It is pretty well reasoned. The 6 games comes from the NFL’s own policies. Comparisons are always imperfect, like analogies. It would be equally valid to say no suspension by comparing Watson to the non-punishment of owners.

  15. Watson’s case is unique in that he is a serial abuser. A lifteime ban would not be inappropriate . . . but a 34 game suspension at a minimum is necessary.

  16. What is the timeline like if the NFL appeals? I know they have 3 days to appeal, then the PA has 2 days to respond. Then what? And when? Can he be put the the exempt list pending the results of the appeal, and then schedule the appeal hearing for next March?

  17. This post glosses over a ton of relevant language in Robinson’s ruling in the Watson case. It’s not a good look for the league, and provides excellent fodder for the NFLPA to sue the league.

  18. Ridley stupidly bet on games. Just have someone else bet for you. Millennials. Ugh.

    The fact is, Goodell guaranteed Watson would not be suspended for long, so Cleveland made the move.

    Goodell is behind this whole thing. A SB in Cleveland is just the fairytale style story Goodell looks for. The more money is spread around the league, the better he looks to the owners.

  19. Priority #1 – a game. Priority #2 – a players drug habits. Priority #3 – the well being of others, in this case women. I must be from a different planet because this seems backwards to me.

  20. I read the entire judgment and the judge makes an interesting point.

    The NFL made changes to it’s conduct policy and applied it retroactively to get him suspended for a full year.

    The judge admitted that she accepted the NFL’s definition of sexual assault (that is not based on criminal law) because they didn’t have a definition beforehand.

    And also, his 6 games is twice as long as previous offenders for similar conduct. Making this unlikely that the NFL appeal.

  21. So many Browns haters out there! The interesting point that NO ONE is talking about is that Watson clearly has a mental illness. Maybe mandatory therapy would have been a better overall solution than any suspension can provide.

  22. Great explanation! Do you know if those specific lengths of punishment are spelled out in the CBA? Also, spot on about other private employers.

  23. The obvious comparison is Brady.

    Unsubstantiated allegations of fiddling with the amount of air in the football are treated roughly the same as 24 allegations of sexual assault.

  24. just like in normal non-sports society, there are inconsistencies all over the place. But even in sports there are too. Look at the Donald Sterling transgression where he was illegally taped – he was forced to sell. Look at Snyder and Kraft – far worse, yet they do not have sell their teams?

  25. The NFL is trying to bring in a wider audience both with women and internationally. This case is unprecedented and the NFL clearly thinks he would keep this behavior up or why would they include the clause he needs to only get massages from the team. Shows watson has zero remorse and needs serious help.

  26. So the integrity of the game is more important than sexual assault? Something is broken there.

  27. This sentence is insanely light. It makes no sense. Many players have been suspended for six games after one incident. Other after two unrelated incidents. Zeke Elliot was suspended for six games when the NFL’s lead investigator recommended no suspension. Josh Gordon lost most of his career for smoking weed. Watson is a habitual, serial abuser. This league’s disclipine are a joke, or a travesty of justice, take your pick.

  28. 6 games for being a predator 4 games draft picks and money for air pressure readings the nfl cant even prove 🤔 the league has lost all credibility.

  29. It’s called evidence. Or, in Watson’s case, the lack thereof. The case came back with no True Bill at Grand Jury. You know how often that happens? Hardly ever, because the Prosecutor never brings the bad cases to GJ.

  30. Well l if all three were owners there would be the standard Godell/NFL punishment. Which is pretty much nothing..

  31. They are all different, but at some point the league/NFLPA has to hammer out a system that fairly punishes guys. (I personally think they should let the legal process play out)
    They need to get a measuring stick so that when someone gets 2, 4, 6, 8, lifetime ban- it makes sense. (eg: Jameis Winston got 3 games in 2018 for sexual harassment accusation, but Watson six in 2022)

  32. if I were facing 25 civil suits for sexual misconduct I would absolutey be fired from my job. No workplace should accept a sexual predator.

  33. The Watson suspension is an insult to female NFL fans. I would hope the commissioner appeals the ruling to show female fans that sexual harrassment is taken more seriously than a player with a trace amount of PEDS found in his urine.

  34. There may be three different policies within which punishment is decided, but if Watson’s behaviour is seen as comparable to that of Hopkins and worse than Ridley’s, then those policies are broken.
    If the league is of the mind that betting on games when you’re no longer with your team is the worst action of the offences committed and does the most harm to the league itself, then the NFL is a grotesque organization.

  35. People can spin it anyway they like but Watson deserved a whole season minimum. I wish he and the Browns little success.

  36. If I am not mistaken Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the same number of games for 2 accusations in 2010, not 24. Ray Rice got suspended 2 games for beating the crap out of his wife in 2014. Doesn’t seem to me that the NFL is making great strides in protecting women from these football stars. Watson assaulted 24 women! That is considered IMO a serial assaultant! Easily deserves a 1 year suspension.

  37. Lets talk about Jarran Reed.

    6 games.. couldn’t be formally charged (assault)

    Watson gets the same? with 23 more accusers?

  38. The biggest Crime against the game was by Ridley… and it’s NOT EVEN debatable ..

    Hopkins and other people accused of steroids etc, are trying to at least be better players to help teams win…

    Watson was an embarrassment to the league, and much more subjective… but what he did was the worst Globaly, but not necessarily to the game itself.

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