CLEVELAND, Ohio — The NFL Players Association braces itself for Deshaun Watson’s “unprecedented” discipline and stands ready to vigorously combat it. A source said Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
Additionally, Florio reported the rift at the NFL bureau Treatment of Watson’s case is mounting, with those who want to take him off the field until his 24 civil lawsuits are resolved gaining momentum after more filings from plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee and more allegations.
Buzbee told cleveland.com that he plans to file two more lawsuits “in due course” and also add the Houston Texans to the lawsuits for alleged aiding and abetting in Watson’s alleged sexual misconduct in appointments with massage therapists.
As for the NFLPA’s strategy, once the discipline is passed, it plans to argue that any suspension for Watson without pay would be excessive in the light treatment of three NFL owners recently implicated in off-field violations: Commander -Owner Daniel Snyder, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
A league source confirmed to cleveland.com that the argument against the owners is indeed the union’s planned defense.
As Florio pointed out, the union believes the relevant line in the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, which should work in Watson’s favor, is: “Ownership and club or league management are traditionally held to a higher standard and will be punished for violations.” the Personal Conduct Policy is more disciplined.”
“Regarding Snyder, the union will argue that given attorney Beth Wilkinson’s findings and possible recommendations, his punishment was weak and not fully enforced,” Florio wrote. “Regarding Kraft, the union will argue that despite allegedly turning a massage into a sexual encounter, Kraft received no punishment. (Although Kraft was charged with incitement, the case was dismissed based on the fact that the CCTV used by law enforcement violated the rights of the various individuals who were secretly recorded.) As for Jones, the union will argue that the league did not investigate the voyeurism scandal involving former Cowboys PR chief Rich Dalrymple, including but not limited to the key questions of what Jones knew, when he knew it, and whether he knew Dalrymple secretly recorded several cheerleaders changing their clothes.
The union is confident that the defense of property will have more weight under the new Personal Conduct Policy adopted in 2020 than under the old rules. In the past, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell determined initial discipline and heard appeals.
Now discipline is judged by an independent officer appointed jointly by the NFL and NFLPA. In Watson’s case, it’s former US District Judge Sue L. Robinson. So long as Robinson fines or suspends Watson, Goodell or an appointee on appeal may make amendments in its sole discretion.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told cleveland.com that he believes the suspension will be too harsh and is likely to appeal.
According to the policy, “discipline can be a fine, a suspension for a limited or indefinite period, a combination of both, or expulsion from the league with an opportunity to reapply.” Discipline may also include a probationary period and conditions that must be met for reinstatement and continued eligibility to participate in the league.
“Players with a history of misconduct, including misconduct that occurred prior to their association with the NFL, are subject to increased and/or expedited discipline, including expulsion from the league with an opportunity to reapply. Both aggravating and mitigating factors can be considered in determining discipline.
“Reference may also be made to requirements to seek ongoing counseling, treatment or therapy, as appropriate, and the imposition of increased surveillance which, if complied with satisfactorily, would serve to mitigate the discipline otherwise imposed.”
As the NFL nears the end of its investigation, the Browns expect to hear back by the end of this month or early July. Hardin told cleveland.com that NFL investigators have completed their interviews with Watson, although two new cases have been filed since speaking to him for four days on two occasions, and “a few more” accusers, the first Times publicly in a new York Times investigative article spoke of Jenny Vrentas.
At the NFL annual convention in March, Goodell took the commissioner’s exempt list off the table because Watson was not indicted by a grand jury on criminal charges. It is unknown if Goodell still thinks so.
But if the league needs more time or discovery, it could suspend Watson indefinitely and require him to meet certain conditions to get back on the field. It could also impose a probationary period.
During a panel interview after Tuesday’s minicamp practice, Watson reiterated that he had done nothing wrong in those sessions and still wanted to clear his name.
“I’ve never attacked or harassed anyone, or disrespected anyone, never forced anyone to do anything,” he said.
The Browns finished minicamp Thursday and Watson won’t be back on the field until first practice at training camp on July 27. If he’s suspended, he can train with the team until camp is over.
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