Deshaun Watson’s mixed signals should give the NFL concern

Cleveland Browns Training Camp
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In one breath, Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson expresses contrition and a desire to accept accountability for the behavior that resulted in an 11-game suspension and a $5 million fine. In the next breath, Watson declares his innocence.

The end result? Watson appears to be neither apologetic nor accountable for his behavior.

The juxtaposition is no more stark than it was today. In writing, Watson said all the right things: “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made.”

Then, when he met with reporters, he retreated to his position that he has done nothing wrong: “I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone. I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence.”

That position may be news to the NFL. Consider the comment from Commissioner Roger Goodell in the press release announcing the suspension: “Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL. This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine, and a more substantial suspension.”

If Watson did nothing wrong, what will the treatment plan be? What will the evaluation observe? Will he disagree with whatever they tell him, because after all he’s completely innocent?

Remember, Judge Sue L. Robinson found that Watson committed four instances of “non-violent sexual assault.” She found his conduct to be “egregious” and “predatory.” How can Watson enter into any agreement that rejects those findings as inaccurate?

That’s exactly what Watson’s camp is currently doing. His agent, David Mulugheta, has taken public issue with Judge Robinson’s finding, in the aftermath of the announcement of the suspension.

“To be clear, Judge Robinson repeated the NFL’s narrative,” Mulugheta said in a since-deleted tweet. “She received a brief from the NFL weeks before we had the opportunity to talk to her. In our 1st call with the Judge she referred to ‘Deshaun’s pattern of behavior’. Her mind was made up before we ever presented a counter.”

Mulugheta replaced the deleted tweet with this: “Deshaun has always stated he is innocent of sexual assault. Nothing has changed in what he said. He also said he is remorseful, the decisions he made have created this situation. The settlement allows him to move forward with his life and career.”

So, basically, Watson said whatever he had to say and signed whatever he had to sign to get back on the field in 2022. He’s admitting to nothing. It’s no different than a criminal defendant pleading guilty and then proclaiming, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

In the legal system, such behavior can invalidate the plea. We’ve asked the NFL whether Watson’s refusal to acknowledge responsibility will have the same result.

Our guess is that the league simply wants to move on, the same as Watson. Even if the right thing to do would be to regard the agreement as null and void and issue a suspension and defend it in court, the NFL seems to be primarily motivated to just end it.

77 responses to “Deshaun Watson’s mixed signals should give the NFL concern

  1. This situation is a complete and utter mess, and the league only have themselves to blame.

  2. Well, the one thing we can all agree on is DeShaun needs to do some serious soul-searching.

  3. When the world is trying to teach someone what they are doing is wrong and that person keeps trying to justify their own wretched actions, that is a bloated ego, arrogant pride… Someone who will surely repeat their actions because they see nothing wrong with it!

  4. How many QBs have missed 28 straight games and come back to be anything close to what they were previously? The Brownies stepped in it with this deal.!!

  5. The league doesn’t care. They are all about the mighty dollar and are all too happy to take blood money.

    Calvin Ridley doesn’t make them money so he’s expendable for an entire season for making a small bet on Draftkings that his team would win a game while he was hurt. But Watson? Rog wants to milk that cow for everything he can get.

  6. It’s interesting to think about this situation in relation to the NFL’s desire to not be racist. This is a sign (in a twisted way) of the progress that has been made over the past 60 or so years.
    There was a time when a white woman merely had to say make an accusation, and a black man was at risk for his life. This is clearly no longer the case.

    We have come a long way as a society, but we clearly have a long way to go.

  7. So when he messes up next time, like we all know he will, suspend him indefinitely (aka forever).

  8. Watson is apparently an extremely creepy guy. However, 2 separate grand juries declined to even press for indictment.
    The NFL DID have its mind made up before this process even started, a nd ignored the recommendation of the independent arbitrator and left it up to Goodell’s hand-picked underling to assess the punishment that Goodell always wanted. If not for the fear of a federal lawsuit, Goodell would have gotten his way.

  9. After reading this, I really would like to see the NFL throw out this suspension/fine, issue a longer and more expensive one, and fight it out with him in court. Watson cannot say “I take accountability” and also say “I stand by my innocence”. It can’t be both. He’s just going through the motions.

  10. I don’t think he views those statements as being mutually exclusive. It’s very likely he believes that he is taking accountability for decisions made while also believing those decisions were “innocent,” but not intelligent. Dumb decisions aren’t always illegal ones and I’d venture a guess that is what he is telling himself.

  11. 11 game suspension, $5M fine, $30M paid by the Texans, a lawyer that he most likely paid 100 times what I make in a year and a result of no criminal record or even a charge. If it were any of the rest of us that don’t have the dollars he can command we’d be in jail and have the sex offender tag for what he did.

  12. He obviously never wrote anything himself, it was something written for him by some PR minion like usual, it’s what he said that showed his true colours. In the end, only losing sponsors would force the NFL to be more decent in such situation. Disgusting.

  13. Concerns? I never thought of Florio as being one for understatement before.

    The NFL must be going crazy. In one single swoop Watson has made the NFL look like fools for such a lenient punishment and reinforced himself as the bad guy… which is quite a feat given where he already started from this morning.

    The NFL PR team are going to have to earn their money this week because this looks like a shambles.

  14. He will 100% do this again because he believes he did nothing wrong and he pretty much got away with it with a bull crap suspension and a tiny fine

  15. Liars tell lies to cover their lies, especially telling separate lies to separate audiences to maintain favor with whomever is in front of them. This is Deshaun Watson.

  16. Its obvious Watson needs mental health help. The league ignores the obvious with this slap on the wrist when they should be taking their cue from mlb.

  17. The NFL doesn’t care. This negotiation was solely for the purpose of protecting the owners from another lawsuit. That’s all this was.

    Watson must move forward very carefully or they will send him packing but don’t think the NFL actually gives a crap about what Watson did other than how if affects their bottom line.

    And in this case, the bottom line was keeping the owners swaddled in bubble wrap away from the public during a trial.

  18. I can’t believe the NFL settled without a clause saying he can’t continue to proclaim his innocence. If they did, they are either morons or completely unserious about any concern for the victims of Watson’s “predatory” and “egregious” behaviors. In either case, someone should be fired, starting with Goodell.

    If they had such a clause, revoke the settlement and give him two years.

  19. Two grand juries refused to indict Deshaun Watson. He is expressing remorse for poor decisions that had a negative impact on others. He is admitting he was at fault. He is also insisting that he is innocent of any crimes, which the justice system has clearly agreed with. What more do you want from this guy?

  20. When given the opportunity to make a statement, the NFL decided to say nothing and settle for the easy way out.. As Watson did during his massage sessions, the NFL has exposed itself, sacrificing integrity in favor of an opportunity for quick gratification. Allowing a proven bad actor negotiate his own punishment sets a bad precedent and will rub many fans the wrong way.

  21. religionisforidiots says:
    August 18, 2022 at 2:08 pm
    This situation is a complete and utter mess, and the league only have themselves to blame.

    _____________

    No, Deshaun is the blame and then the league for how they have handled this. None of this happens if Deshaun is not a scumbag.

  22. 2 Jury’s did not charge him. There is no crime for being creepy. A Federal judge for the NFL gave him 6 games. Stop being naive. There is info we don’t know that that those 2 Grand Jury’s do know…the exact reason why he stated what he said today. Whatever they saw….they decline to move forward criminally…this is about saving face for the League now

  23. Watson now represents the city of Cleveland. If I was from Cleveland I would be disgusted.

  24. Weird… the NFL didn’t consult me in any way yet I referred to it as a pattern of behavior

  25. At worst he is a serial sex offender….at best he is a really horrible human being. Either way not a great look. Should be no where near a NFL field. Go rehabilitate your image somewhere privately before trying to get right back into the spot light.

  26. It’s entirely possible to have committed acts that look bad and deserve punishment and not have assaulted anyone. Like it or not, appropriate or not, men all over the country get happy endings every day from a willing participant. Not saying it’s good, just saying it’s not assault.

  27. Maybe he can throw a football like nobodies business,….. but when it comes to “Smarts”,…. he’s most definitely lacking.
    Just shut up and let it go Deshaun. Every time you open your mouth regarding this case,… you’re making it a worse look.

  28. The NFL made up the “nonviolent sexual assault” definition based on the evidence.

    Then, they find him guilty based on the definition.

  29. If the NFL had any concern they would have suspended him indefinitely. We now know 100% that NFL discipline is strictly motivated by profits!

  30. 11 week suspension should have been contingent on him receiving counseling and actually admitting he was wrong. If he failed he should be suspended for the whole year.

  31. Regardless of the punishment, my question is will Watson change his behavior? If he doesn’t accept he did something wrong, and doesn’t get help, then there’s a good chance he will continue his behavior in secret. That will not prevent future women from being mistreated.

  32. Watsons team will now sue the NFL……AND they will win the lawsuit in a normal courtroom. It will be the largest lawsuit ever litigated in professional sports history. You cannot punish a player for a crime that was not committed ; If you make up your own definition of what you think a crime should be defined as, you are walkibg down a path to taking a beating in a real court room. NFL is stepping in S – – – that it has no business pretending it knows what it is doing.

  33. Watson is clearly an inappropriate person and conducts his life in a manner I cannot condone nor would I want my children to grow to be like. But the fact is, it was found that his behavior is not criminal just unbecoming of the leagues standards. Chances are you work with, go to school with, or have someone in your family that behaves similarly. Watson should not be publicly executed nor should the other inappropriate people you know. Just keep your distance as you see fit and let the Browns organization do as they so choose.

  34. Oh wow, the Browns are lucky to find any players willing to sign with them. They have really struggled to find enough players to fill their roster. Going to be a long season in Cleveland. I feel bad for their players.

  35. He’s damned if he does damned if he dsnt. He was clearly set up by the Texans. He’s guilty of being a horn dog, and that’s not illegal or against NFL rules. The NFL is a joke

  36. I’m no Watson apologist, but unless his punishment of an 11 game suspension & $5mil fine, also contains a hidden contrition clause, the NFL shouldn’t be concerned about jack. They made their ruling. Now live with it…consequences and all.

  37. When a woman says “NO”, that’s exactly what it means. Watson didn’t care. He did what he wanted to anyway. That is illegal, and his punishment is a joke. He doesn’t even think that he needs any sort of intervention or has a problem. THAT is a problem…for women. The NFL just wants this whole thing to go away.

  38. Imagine being able to do what Deshaun Watson did and then get to negotiate your punishment. Talk about privilege. Goodell is an absolute coward.

  39. Coupon Email says:
    August 18, 2022 at 2:59 pm
    The NFL made up the “nonviolent sexual assault” definition based on the evidence.

    Then, they find him guilty based on the definition.

    ————-

    It’s not a question of law. It’s about a code of conduct policy for the NFL. Every company has a similar policy and Watson’s behavior would be grounds for termination under this policy at any normal company. Particularly if he was a highly paid public facing employee. Watson only gets to keep his job because NFL level QBs with his talent are so hard to find. It’s the opposite of what you think. The NFL was extremely lenient in this case.

  40. tank93 says:
    August 18, 2022 at 2:48 pm
    2 Jury’s did not charge him. There is no crime for being creepy. A Federal judge for the NFL gave him 6 games. Stop being naive. There is info we don’t know that that those 2 Grand Jury’s do know…the exact reason why he stated what he said today. Whatever they saw….they decline to move forward criminally…this is about saving face for the League now

    ———

    A person doesn’t need to commit a crime to breach a code of conduct policy in an organization. Usually, the punishment for something like this is immediate termination. Watson is extremely lucky to still have a job. His talent has maybe afforded him a second chance later this year.

  41. Aron Gomberg says:
    August 18, 2022 at 3:16 pm
    Watson is clearly an inappropriate person and conducts his life in a manner I cannot condone nor would I want my children to grow to be like. But the fact is, it was found that his behavior is not criminal just unbecoming of the leagues standards. Chances are you work with, go to school with, or have someone in your family that behaves similarly. Watson should not be publicly executed nor should the other inappropriate people you know. Just keep your distance as you see fit and let the Browns organization do as they so choose.

    ————

    If someone on the executive team that is public facing at your company was being publicly sued by 20+ women for sexual misconduct, and it made the news, they would be immediately fired. Nobody you know is currently gainfully employed if their employer knows they were behaving like Watson.

  42. Time for the NFL to now present the other 20 cases. Precedent set at 11 games for four offences. Another 55 should do it plus an extra $20M.

  43. Enough already. The decision has been made with longer suspension, a fine, and also the requirement of evaluation and follow up. Nothing else needs to be written about this. Now lets talk football.

  44. Browns go 6-5 the first 11 gms. Then go 3-3 with him. 9-8, no playoffs, and a disgrace at QB. But hey, the Browns sold their soul for this guy.

  45. Watson’s just doing what he’s done all along – denying, avoiding, following the abuser’s playbook to the letter.

    The league knows everything but treated this like it wasn’t DOZENS of cases of sexual abuse and a completely unrepentant offender.

    They were faced with an unprecedented abuser and now they’ve normalized it. Dozens of victims? No problem, see you in a few months, here’s $230 million.

    They had a chance to set a precedent for no tolerance of abuse of women, but instead they said it’s okay. That should haunt them forever.

  46. If the settlement agreement didn’t include an admission of guilt/culpability clause, it would be yet another unbelievably stupid mistake by the league. But I shouldn’t be surprised, as I’ve been saying for years that Jeff Pash is incompetent.

  47. Before social media, before the Internet and when there were only three channels on your TV set and no sports talk radio stations there was the NFL of the 70’s. It might have been the greatest period on the field with teams like Raiders, Steelers and Cowboys. The public was blissfully unaware of players behavior. Who knew what steroids turned some of these guys into. No doubt there were things off the field that were covered up that make Watson look like a choir boy. Things happened that would put the a man who didn’t play for league in jail for a long, long time. Much of what these players did will never be known. I’m sure some of them are in HOF. Pete Rozelle knew, the league knew but it was in the midst of huge TV contracts and merchandising. It was swept under the rug. Now the NFL is swayed by public influence and editorials in newspapers but let’s not forget on what the league was built on and what they ignored to become so big.

  48. The first part of his statement makes it sound like Watson truly believes he committed no crimes, which maybe a person who wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt could understand:

    “I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said I’ve never assaulted anyone …

    It is this last part that makes him sound like an unrepentant sociopath:

    … or disrespected anyone.”

  49. So I guess if I had a civil suit pending that I would admit that I am completely ‘guilty’. NOT !!

  50. Or there just could be a sliver of possibility that a majority of the accusers were swayed by a lawyer known for mass class action suits with a promise of big paydays and that he feels he may be innocent of the accusations. Hence two grand jury’s not finding enough criminal evidence. Just saying.

  51. Just keep Watson under the microscope for the rest of his NFL career and the next time he inevitably does something stupid with his behavior towards women or massage therapists, just ban him from the NFL for good and we’ll be done with this whole ordeal.

  52. Call me naive, but I don’t find it outside the realm of possibility that a large number of massage therapists jumped on the lawsuit train thinking they could make a lot of money if they lied about their encounter. People lie for money all the time. I agree that it is a lot of women, but it is possible that more has been made of this than it actually was, and his statements of “innocence” are true in themselves. I’m a strong believer in innocence until proven guilty, and while there is smoke, there has been little actual fire- except when someone can make a lot of money from the fire.

  53. The league should be proud. They just negotiated with a guy who immediately showed no remorse before the ink was dry. Said the right things right before the agreement to appear remorseful then flipped the bird to The league. He’s sorry he got busted, but still won’t admit any culpability.

  54. “Well, the one thing we can all agree on is DeShaun needs to do some serious soul-searching.”

    No. We cannot.

  55. “How many QBs have missed 28 straight games and come back to be anything close to what they were previously?”

    Michael Vick came back better than before.

  56. “So when he messes up next time, like we all know he will, suspend him indefinitely (aka forever).”

    If he were foolish enough to do ANYTHING untoward they surely will. I do not think he will though. He will be the same person inside, but he will not act on those instincts ever again. There is simply too much money at stake.

  57. I love the way people are wailing, whining and complaining. Case closed. Go Browns!

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