HomeSports TruthDeshaun Watson

Rewind to 2018 Clemson QB Deshaun Watson had all the promise in the world. He  was being  touted as one of the best in his draft class, and speculation was running wild about if he could go first overall or not. His stats were that impressive and some thought he could represent a paradigm shift for a franchise. . This includes a completion percentage of 67.4, 10,168 total yards racked up, an average of 8.2 yards per pass,  90 touchdowns, and only 32 interceptions. 

He was also an explosive rusher who racked up 1394 yards, 4.4 yards a carry, and 26 touchdowns during his time at Clemson. Watson was even coming off a National Championship upset against The Almighty Alabama Crimson Tide, something very few quarterbacks achieved in their college career.  As if that wasn’t enough, he helped lead his team to an undefeated record in his senior year.

 That is to say; this young man had everything in the world going for him. He would later be drafted by the Houston Texans, who eventually offered him a lucrative contract for a rookie. This included a 13.4-million-dollar four-year deal and an 8.6 million signing bonus. It was obvious that The Texans were betting their future on this kid.

Fast forward to 2022, however, and his career trajectory turned downward. Despite having success with the Texans and leading them to the playoffs twice, poor performances and injuries were starting to plague the team. He was also upset with several changes in the Texans’ front office, leading to him asking to be traded in 2021

Around that time, allegations were beginning to surface that Watson had sexually assaulted and harassed several women. It started with a complaint in 2021 by a Houston Massage therapist, who claimed that Watson touched her inappropriately. She was represented by attorney Tony Buzbee and filed a civil lawsuit against Watson.

This later snowballed into 22 lawsuits by massage therapists against Watson, damaging his image in the league. Media coverage was devoted daily to his uncomfortable downfall. He was always the topic of conversation on sports news networks everywhere and it bled into the mainstream media as well. It just kept getting progressively worse.

Before anyone knew it, a firestorm was erupting around this once promising draft pick. The guy that once led his team to a National Championship and an undefeated season was gone. In his place was a man, who’s life started to erupt into a firestorm that could endanger his entire career.

And who better to dump gasoline on that fire than The Cleveland Browns, who traded for and signed the embattled QB to a four-year, 230 million dollar guaranteed contract? This was before a grand jury decided not to indict Watson on sexual harassment or assault allegations, and all but 1 of the 22 civil lawsuits were settled.

These weren’t innocent misunderstandings either. One report claims he asked a massage therapist for sex. Another alleges he pressed his private parts against one victim during a session. There was even one where Watson allegedly brought a massage therapist to his room, locked the door, and put her hand on his private area. Watson maintains that some of the events happened but that they were consensual on both sides.

Things took another turn after the judge presiding over the case, Sue Lewis Robinson, handed down a six-game suspension for Watson’s actions. While this was seen as a bit of a victory, the decision was appealed by NFL officials. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell outright called for a one-year suspension of Watson for his actions and a sizable monetary fine. 

Judge Robinson wrote in her decision that while Watson’s conduct was detrimental to the league and that he exhibited predatory behavior, she was bound to the standard of fairness from similar cases.  More on these later, but most of them were laughable penalties at best.

As a part of the appeal, The NFL picked New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to preside over the matter. On Thursday, August 18th, Mr. Harvey decided to increase the suspension to 11 games and levied a 5 million dollar fine against the Quarterback. This is the highest fine ever issued to a player in The NFL but likely won’t make a dent in his checkbook.

“I’m grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a statement released by the Browns. “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I make. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my teammates however possible while I’m away from the team. I’m excited about what the future holds for me in Cleveland.”

As much as some want to applaud judge Harvey for setting a new precedent, it still feels hollow.  Think about it! In just over two months, the women abused by this man will see him back on a field for an NFL team. Getting celebrated and cheered on as he fights for a playoff spot. What a slap in the face to these individuals that he terrorized.

“The message today to all victims is clear: If you believe you have been sexually assaulted by a powerful person, keep your mouth shut and go away,” Buzbee, who represents the women who sued Watson, said in reaction to Thursday’s settlement. “The NFL has demonstrated that its ownership and organization don’t care. To all sexual assault survivors, do not allow this recent ‘punishment’ to deter you. Keep speaking up and keep speaking out. Your voice matters. You are making a difference. We stand with you.”

If The NFL  did care about the victims, the league wouldn’t want to see this man on a field again. They would never want to be associated with him and suspend him for no less than two years.  He gave the league a bad name with his actions, and one would think officials would get their heads out of their assess and realize that. 

 Instead, they are just trying to show teeth with an 11-game suspension and a 5 million dollar fine that looks laughable when you remember how much he is making with The Browns. In fact, Watson should have no problem paying off his remaining accuser and returning to his former glory. It’s just sick to think about.

If these women were violated in the way that they claimed in their lawsuits, they likely face a very rough road ahead.  This could include therapy for PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, or any other number of disorders. They could also be triggered by certain events or occurrences in their everyday life. These women could very well be scarred for life and Watson walks away with an 11-game suspension and a 5 million dollar fine? 

As for the league, all they seem to care about is the PR angle.  They want Watson on the field but pretend they want to do right by the victims.  If they wanted to do that, why wouldn’t the league suspend him when the allegations came out?  Why would Also, why would Goodell ultimately accept a decision that was less than what he asked for if he cared so much? The behavior here just isn’t congruent.

  If The Cleveland Browns cared, why would they trade for him and fork over a guaranteed 230 million when there was an ongoing investigation? At no point in any of this did someone stop to consider the victims. Just the money and maintain a good public image.  It’s just a game of lining their pockets, getting Watson back on the field, and looking good in the court of public opinion.

Maintaining a sound social image has become almost impossible though due to the league’s history with these incidents. For example, one of the first to get suspended for this kind of behavior was Michael Pittman, who was sentenced to a 10-game suspension for domestic violence in 2004. Justice wouldn’t get served, though, after the punishment got brought down to four games in an appeal.

If you want a more recent example, Jameis Winston was suspended for three games for sexual harassment during his time with The Buccaneers. He was back on the field in weeks and rooted on by his diehard fans. No lasting damage to his public image. No real consequences for his career. Just a few missed games.

. A more high-profile example was Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott, who got suspended six games for domestic violence. Notice how little the players paid for their actions, if at all. Also, notice how while the penalty hurt the player and the team to some degree, they were still given enough time to fix it on the field. As if that’s what’s supposed to be most important here!

It just seemed like the league’s intent was to minimize the damage and get their star players back on the field, not to do right by the victims. That’s why it’s hard to believe that the NFL cares about what’s happened. There’s just too much of a history of letting players off easy with little to no consequences.

The best example is that Goodell initially argued for an entire year suspension for Watson That was a pretty bold statement for a commissioner that usually levies light suspensions in these situations. However, he randomly accepts the 11-game penalty a week after arguing for a year suspension. What kind of statement is that to the victims and future perpetrators?

“Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL,” Goodell said in a statement. “This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine, and a more substantial suspension. We are grateful to Judge Robinson and Peter Harvey for their efforts in addressing these matters, which laid the foundation for reaching this conclusion.”

After reading that statement, ask yourself if that is something that should be said about a man that is accused of 22 sexual abuse allegations. The NFL acts as if getting help and apologizing somehow absolves him of his actions. Of course, he also has to sit out 11 games without pay, but he is still looking for a bright future in Cleveland!

 Why not file another appeal and do right by these victims? Why not exhaust their options and try to show the league he takes this seriously? Instead, Watson will be back on the field in October. His first game will be against his former team, The Houston Texans, and he still might have a chance to make the playoffs!

Does that sound like a punishment or a slap on the wrist for someone that possibly took advantage of several women? Where is the justice for these victims and victims of other players in the NFL? The sad truth is that there isn’t any. To The NFL, it’s not about them. It’s not about right and wrong. It’s about protecting the league at all costs.

Photo by Getty Images
previous article
next article
No comments

leave a comment