Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson ruled on Monday.
There will be no additional fine accompanying the suspension, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported.
In her 16-page report, which NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport obtained on Monday, Robinson wrote that the NFL successfully “carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson violated the (personal-conduct) policy” by engaging in “sexual assault; conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”
While Robinson, a former U.S. district judge, noted that the NFL recommended Watson be suspended for at least the 2022 season, she said that she was “bound ‘by standards of fairness and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated’ ” in her decision.
“Although I have found Mr. Watson to have violated the Policy, I have done so using the NFL’s post-hoc definitions of the prohibited conduct at issue,” Robinson wrote. “Defining prohibited conduct plays a critical role in the rule of law, enabling people to predict the consequences of their behavior. It is inherently unfair to identify conduct as prohibited only after the conduct has been committed, just as it is inherently unjust to change the penalties for such conduct after the fact. As I’ve noted above, the NFL is a private organization and can operate as it deems fit, but the post-hoc determination of what constitutes the prohibited conduct here cannot genuinely satisfy the ‘fairness’ prong of the standard of review or justify the imposition of the unprecedented sanction requested by the NFL.”
Robinson wrote in her conclusion that in determining a six-game suspension for Watson, she looked “at the record when compared to the relevant precedent” and looked “forward to how this disciplinary determination might be used in the future.”
Robinson’s decision also requires Watson not have massages other than ones directed by club personnel. Watson also may “have no adverse involvement with law enforcement, and must not commit any additional violations of the policy.”
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement Monday that they respect Robinson’s decision.
“Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L. Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision,” the Haslams said. “We respect Judge Robinson’s decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process. We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.”
The NFL released the following statement Monday on Robinson’s ruling:
“We thank Judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent disciplinary officer, for her review of the voluminous record and attention during a three-day hearing that resulted in her finding multiple violations of the NFL personal-conduct policy by Deshaun Watson,” the league said. “We appreciate Judge Robinson’s diligence and professionalism throughout this process.
“Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL or the NFLPA on behalf of Watson may appeal the decision within three days. In light of her findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps.”
The NFL Players Association issued a statement on Sunday stating that it would not appeal Robinson’s ruling.