NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appealed Deshaun Watson’s six-game ban on Wednesday and is seeking a suspension of at least one year, a source told the New York Daily News.
Legal experts also believe Goodell, or an appointee, could levy a stiff fine on top of that.
Judge Sue L. Robinson’s six-game Monday ruling fell way short of the “unprecedented” punishment the league was seeking for a “pattern of conduct ... more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL,” as Robinson described Watson’s rampant alleged sexual assaults.
The league notified the NFL players’ association of its appeal and filed its brief on Wednesday afternoon. The NFLPA has two days to file a written response to the appeal.
Then Goodell, or a person appointed by him, will process the appeal “on an expedited basis,” as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
The new ruling will “constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player, club,” league and union, per terms of the CBA.
The league had recommended to Robinson prior to her decision that Watson be suspended for “at least the entire 2022 NFL season and postseason.” Robinson was jointly appointed and paid by the league and players’ union to review the case.
She handed Watson a reduced suspension in part because she characterized Watson’s assaults as “non-violent” and hid behind the league’s precedent of punishments for similarly characterized assaults.
Goodell justifiably is unsatisfied with that determination.
If Goodell suspends Watson indefinitely now himself, some legal experts believe the NFLPA would file a lawsuit in federal court, dragging this situation into a second straight regular season and possibly beyond.
It’s important to remember, however, that the union agreed to grant Goodell final authority on appeals in the personal conduct policy during CBA negotiations. This arrangement only exists because both sides signed off.
Twenty-four women in total filed civil lawsuits against Watson, the former Houston Texans QB, alleging sexual assaults on massage therapists. Robinson, a retired judge, said Watson had demonstrated a “lack of expressed remorse.”
She also ruled Watson had violated three provisions of the CBA’s personal conduct policy by engaging in: sexual assault, conduct that poses a genuine danger to people’s safety and well-being, and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.
“According to the NFL,” Robinson wrote in her decision Monday, “if this recommended sentence is unprecedented ... that is because his conduct is unprecedented.”
And Goodell’s feelings on this matter, as evidenced on Wednesday, clearly haven’t changed.