Deshaun Watson suspension: Roger Goodell nonetheless has ultimate say

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports activities Columnist

Monday’s choice on Deshaun Watson – the Cleveland Browns quarterback acquired a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s private conduct coverage – left loads to unpack.

However as soccer tries to make sense of what comes subsequent after the ruling by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson referring to quite a few allegations of sexual misconduct involving two dozen ladies, nothing is extra hanging than this: Commissioner Roger Goodell faces arguably the trickiest, most nuanced and controversial choice of his tenure.

Goodell is in an unenviable spot that may earn him criticism no matter he does. Such is the character of such issues, and that’s why he makes the large bucks, however it’s a rocky street nonetheless.

The NFL didn’t get what it needed from Robinson’s ruling and punishment, which didn’t impose a monetary sanction. She described Watson’s actions as “egregious,” termed his conduct as “non-violent sexual conduct,” mandated him to not obtain massages from anybody besides team-approved personnel and imposed different behavioral expectations.

Throughout a three-day listening to earlier than Robinson in June, the league pushed for a full-season suspension that may have seen Watson sit out greater than 2.5 years by its conclusion.

In current days, in response to a number of experiences, additional settlement discussions weren’t resolved as a result of the NFL Gamers Affiliation wouldn’t comply with a ban longer than six video games, and the league was steadfast in wanting a minimal of a 12-game ban, together with a hefty high quality.

If the NFL appeals, and it has three days to take action, the ultimate choice rests with Goodell. The league’s disciplinary course of was arrange throughout the newest collective bargaining discussions. The NFLPA needed to keep away from conditions the place penalties could possibly be meted out to gamers in instances of incomplete or inconclusive proof.

For instance, had Robinson discovered no wrongdoing on the a part of Watson, who has settled 23 of the 24 civil instances in opposition to him, Goodell would not be capable to implement any suspension.

However now, following Robinson’s judgment, Goodell should weigh his personal choices and analyze whether or not to wield his energy. 

If he had been to extend Watson’s ban, it might ship a strong message concerning the NFL’s willpower to take a heavy stance in opposition to sexual misconduct by its gamers.

But when he alters the phrases of the punishment, it’d undermine the method set in place by the CBA and undercut the choice by Robinson – a extremely revered former federal decide with a long time of authorized expertise.

“The NFL now must grapple with whether Roger Goodell is a more fair/accurate/appropriate arbiter of justice in the Deshaun Watson case than an impartially appointed federal judge who weighed the presented evidence for a month,” Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson wrote. “It’s a sizable question with a consequential answer.”

A sterner stance by Goodell additionally raises the likelihood that the NFLPA, which strongly urged the NFL to just accept Robinson’s ruling, might take authorized motion in federal courtroom, a step that may prolong the matter past the beginning of the brand new season, and probably a lot additional.

That danger must be weighed in opposition to the potential P.R. backlash of standing pat. Inside minutes of Robinson’s choice, social media was evaluating Watson’s ban to the full-season suspension handed to Atlanta Falcons huge receiver Calvin Ridley for playing on video games.

“I would be truly shocked if the NFL simply accepts this and moves on,” FS1’s Nick Wright stated, on “First Things First.” “I think it is going to be incredibly difficult for the NFL to not up this somewhat. Will they up it to the full season they asked for? Maybe not. But I think they are going to up it, yes.”

Watson’s popularity has taken a monumental hit. Your complete state of affairs has been a totally disagreeable story, and the optics of a participant beneath investigation for inappropriate actions towards ladies receiving the most important contract in NFL historical past had been removed from perfect.

The Browns took their shot and acquired their man. From their standpoint, a six-game penalty is on probably the most favorable facet of what might have been realistically anticipated, even with the NFLPA’s having argued for zero video games.

As a result of Watson was not suspended for a full season, he was on the coaching facility Monday and might proceed as a part of Cleveland’s preseason plans. He will even be capable to be a part of the squad in Week 4 for follow forward of a possible Week 7 return on the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 23.

Till then, there’s extra to unfold. Monday’s information is just not essentially the ultimate step. All that basically occurred was that the matter reached a vital crossroads.

And Goodell is standing at that exact spot, understanding the subsequent transfer is on him.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports activities and the writer of the FOX Sports activities Insider publication. You can subscribe to the each day publication right here.

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