In the Deshaun Watson appeal, will Peter Harvey give the NFL anything other than what the NFL wants?

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Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided not to personally handle the appeal of the Deshaun Watson suspension, even though the Commissioner had the power to do so under the Personal Conduct Policy. He has instead delegated the matter to former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey.

There’s no specific deadline for Harvey to issue a ruling, but the policy requires that it be “expedited.” There’s also no requirement in the policy or the Collective Bargaining Agreement for a hearing on appeal. It’s possible, however, that the NFL Players Association has asked for one.

Whenever Harvey makes his decision, the question is whether it will be anything other than the punishment the NFL has requested. Frankly, there’s no reason to believe he’ll deviate from what the league has requested, unless the plan consists of asking for a full season and as a way to make, say, a 12-game suspension seem less harsh.

Whatever Harvey does, it’s fair to think it will be exactly what Goodell would have done on his own. Although Harvey isn’t a league employee, he has close ties to the NFL. He helped develop the current version of the Personal Conduct Policy, adopted in the aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle. Harvey also advised the Commissioner in connection with the Ezekiel Elliott case.

In that case, Harvey said he believed Elliott’s accuser because of the presence of contemporaneous activities corroborating her claims (i.e., photos taken on the days that injuries were sustained and sent to third parties). Here, the league ultimately settled on four Watson accusers because of contemporaneous evidence corroborating the claims (e.g., text messages sent after the interaction with Watson).

The NFL told PFT that Harvey has had no prior involvement in the Watson case. It’s a claim that can’t be readily debunked, absent full access to the relevant communications between and among everyone who chimed in, directly or indirectly, regarding the question of whether Watson did what he’s accused of doing, and how to go about proving it.

Why wouldn’t someone connected to the league’s handling of the Watson case have asked Harvey, who helped develop the current policy, for his opinion on how best to properly assess Watson’s behavior? Judge Sue L. Robinson’s analysis of the policy focused on the distinction between violent and non-violent sexual assault. The league may believe that there’s no distinction under the policy. Harvey, who helped develop the policy, may believe it.

Basically, having Harvey handle the Watson appeal is no different having a Senator who helped draft a bill that became a law serve as the judge in a later case deciding how to interpret and apply the resulting statute. And that’s separate and apart from the fact that Harvey will be inclined to do whatever he thinks Goodell wants him to do.

A decade ago, Goodell designated former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to handle the appeals of suspensions imposed on players connected to the Saints bounty scandal. Tagliabue scrapped the punishments and politely dressed down his successor for opting to change a broader culture by making an example out of one team. This time around, Goodell’s designation entails far less risk. He has appointed someone who has a valuable relationship with the league and who surely wants to maintain it.

Indeed, Peter Harvey’s connection to the NFL appears near the top of his online bio. It’s a selling point to be involved with pro football. An imprimatur that helps him land more clients. That’s not even a cynical viewpoint; it’s obvious. For the same reason medical practices clamor to be associated with the NFL and its teams, lawyers whose business interests rely on having high-dollar legal work to perform love to market themselves as being tied to The Shield.

Harvey won’t want to put that relationship at any risk. He’ll minimize the chance of that happening by giving Goodell whatever Harvey thinks Goodell wants. And it surely won’t be a guessing game. At some point, Harvey will know Goodell’s preference. And the factual findings of Judge Robinson, which are binding on the appeal process, give Harvey everything he needs to give Goodell anything he wants.

42 responses to “In the Deshaun Watson appeal, will Peter Harvey give the NFL anything other than what the NFL wants?

  1. The Ezekiel Elliott fiasco was a flat out joke of a hit job. They wanted him suspended and Harvey (cherry picking the evidence) said okay-dokey

  2. Lifetime ban with a chance for reinstatement after 2 years. Make it dependent on whether or not he completes counseling, and the Browns organization should face some type of punishment for structuring his contract the way that they did in order to try and protect his money. That’s as bad as his disgusting acts

  3. If Harvey takes longer than 5 minutes to issue a ruling then he’s just biding time to make it appear he’s not a Kangaroo….

  4. Agreed. The Browns should face punishment for trying to shield this predator from literally paying for his crimes.

  5. It’s likely not the right thing, but if they increase the suspension to 15-17 games, it will be over.

  6. Let’s see, Goodell appealed to Goodell so that Goodell could name the person to hear the appeal. So, of course Goodell will get what Goodell wants. We just have to wait to see what that is.

  7. I suppose it’s too much to ask one single, solitary soul to simply do the right thing.

  8. And Robert Kraft got no punishment. So much for being held to a higher standard. Union needs make a big deal about this.

  9. Lets just hope they work it out. Then everyone can have a “happy ending”.

  10. I bet the nfl is screaming for a tear while secretly telling Harvey 10 – 12 games.

  11. Has to be 12 to keep him out for the Texans game. Neither the league nor the Texans want him playing in that game.

  12. There is plenty of blame to heap on the Browns, but the structure of the contract is not one of them. All of their highly paid players (like Myles Garrett) have contracts structured with $1M salary for the first year. It’s called salary cap management.

  13. touchback6 says:
    August 7, 2022 at 2:43 pm
    Luckily it’s what everyone else, besides despicable Browns fans, wants too

    ————

    As long as Kraft gets the same punishment I think all fans will be good with the decision

  14. The NFL is only appealing due to media/public reaction to the 6 game suspension. If that had been accepted more favorably this would be over. Now they have to come in with final say on the matter and be the champions of justice. LOL Dont get me wrong, 6 games does feel a little weak considering, but the whole independent hearing looks like a dog and pony show when the they could have just doled out whatever punishment they thought was good enough to appease the masses/media in the first place rather than trying to make it look all independent like that.

  15. Lets not kid ourselves.
    This is sham cover for Goodell and the league.

    They wanted it to look impartial with the new method of going to an independent person first, so if they appealed and just handed the power back to Goodell people would be suspicious.

    Now they get to hand pick a different ‘independent’ person they clearly known will be tougher. They get what they want and get to to go, Hey…hey… it wasn’t us. We picked someone to decide outside the league office and this is what he ruled.

  16. No disrepect, but I feel Judge Robinson was compensated for nothing. I expect NJAG Harvey has been vetted, parameters were discussed, and will rule within the NFL’s desired outcome. Why go through the process if its not truly independent?

    My employer would have found a reason to terminate me in this situation and I am not a public figure. I do think a year plus a major fine is fair.

  17. I hope he doesn’t do what the league wanted. I hope he goes further. In any other business a man who was that inapporpriate with 4 or 24 women would be terminated. I hope Harvey bans Watson from the NFL.

  18. Everyone assumes a year long suspension, but what I’ve seen from everyone covering this is nobody really knows what the final outcome will be. So everyone who thinks they know what’s going to happen, doesn’t.

  19. Proof that the penalty phase of the Personal Conduct Policy is a farce. In the end, the Commissioner decides regardless of what any “independent” arbitrator or league disciplinary officer determines. This has been fact since Goodell took over. No idea why they go through this. He didn’t agree with the first arbitrator that HE chose, now he’s employing a guy that he knows will agree with his choice.

  20. Perhaps they have gone with 1 mil for the first year on contracts before. It doesn’t make sense to do it when you have 50 million dollars in cap space. So I’m not buying it.

  21. campcouch says:
    August 7, 2022 at 5:25 pm
    Proof that the penalty phase of the Personal Conduct Policy is a farce. In the end, the Commissioner decides regardless of what any “independent” arbitrator or league disciplinary officer determines. This has been fact since Goodell took over. No idea why they go through this. He didn’t agree with the first arbitrator that HE chose, now he’s employing a guy that he knows will agree with his choice.
    ____________

    You are missing the fact that if Judge Robinson had imposed no suspension the matter would be closed. Goodell would have been unable to do anything.

    Also, the league and the NFLPA jointly chose Judge Robinson, not just Goodell alone.

  22. nflyoda says:
    August 7, 2022 at 6:20 pm
    Perhaps they have gone with 1 mil for the first year on contracts before. It doesn’t make sense to do it when you have 50 million dollars in cap space. So I’m not buying it.

    ————————————-

    It makes perfect sense when you consider that cap space can be rolled over to subsequent years.

  23. I hope the scene went like this;

    Rog- Who here in this country club lounge will ban that deviant indefinitely? First guy who raises his hand gets the job.

  24. Still can’t believe we spent an entire offseason talking about this degenerate .

  25. Any more than 12 games and NFLPA will file a lawsuit in district court – and this thing will drag on for months and months and months…. oh wait, it already has

  26. I’m trying to jog my memory as to if Ray Lewis or Marvin Harrison was ever up for Indefinite ( or permanent) Suspension from the NFL. But Deshaun is ??

  27. Give Goodell credit for trying to look like he is giving the process some semblance of impartiality. He didn’t have to do anything other than rule on the appeal, himself. That would have been a bad look, so this move makes business sense. Say what you will; Goodell knows how to protect the shield.

  28. Its not a “sham” because the league can do what ever it wants and makes no pretense other wise.

    But if Watson steps on the field this year – the league looks bad.

  29. Where was the Houston front office when Watson’s “hobby” was discovered? Are we supposed to believe that someone with enough juice to arrange hotel rooms and give Watson a pre-printed nondisclosure agreement form didn’t tell any coach or the GM about it? The Texans helped create a monster and then got three #1s and change to unload his toxic butt. It’s easy to be disgusted by the Browns, but the Texans are equally despicable on this one.

  30. Too late NFL…your refusal to address this problem from the beginning has sent a clear message to women…you don’t care!

  31. As I missing something, the women in this case got paid. Why do we not worry about how they or their lawyer feels about how long DeShaun is suspended? I don’t condone any wrongful act against women, but once they settled it was over and they don’t have a say so in the process. Let’s just get this done, but it won’t be because the NFL just bucked the independent process and placed it in the hands of a non-independent party. If Harvey’s ruling is anything more than 8 games and a fine, the NFLPA will appeal and Watson will be playing during the appeal. This has gotten overly ridiculous!!!

  32. gibson45 says: August 7, 2022 at 6:34 pm You are missing the fact that if Judge Robinson had imposed no suspension the matter would be closed. Goodell would have been unable to do anything. Also, the league and the NFLPA jointly chose Judge Robinson, not just Goodell alone. ____________ False. Goodell can appeal any decision from the arbitrator. Any punishment as part of any decision is wholly immaterial. It’s the decision itself Goodell can appeal. I’m not certain what difference it makes that both the NFL\NFLPA mutually chose Robinson. You can replace Robinson with any person (reputable or not) and it won’t change the fact that player discipline in the NFL is an absolute farce. Watson could get an permanent lifetime ban from the NFL and it won’t change the fact that player discipline in the NFL is an absolute farce.

  33. The current disciplinary process that the Player’s Association agreed to is a joke. The only way that the process could have any semblance of “fairness” would be if the Discipline Officer (Sue Robinson), AND the individual hearing any appeals, were jointly appointed by the NFL, and the NFLPA. The current power imbalance does nothing but give the league the final say…

  34. This whole article/conversation is a joke and a waste of time. Abuse a dog go to jail. Abuse a women keep playing in the NFL. Sums it up

  35. Once again wrong way Goodell messed things up big time this could drag out in the courts for a year or more…fire Goodell .

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