This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinions for CBC Sports. For more information on CBC Opinion Sectionplease consult the FAQs.
So now we know how determined the NFL is to see Deshaun Watson endure stricter discipline than the six-game suspension an independent arbitrator handed down after rendering judgment on the quarterback’s repeated and unwanted sexual advances- star back to massage therapists.
On Wednesday, the league announced it would suspend Watson — whose US$230 million contract makes him the highest-paid NFL player in history — for at least one season. The NFL also wants to impose a heavy fine on him and require that he undergo therapy before returning to play. The news broke just after 4 p.m. ET, in time to carry the early evening and late evening sports news broadcasts.
The appeal, released well before the Thursday morning deadline, seeks to overturn a ruling by retired judge Sue Robinson, which the NFL and players’ association set up precisely for situations like this. – to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, and to impose weighted discipline for misconduct off the pitch.
This new round of legal battles raises new questions, but not necessarily for the Browns. We know why they gave Watson a record deal when they traded him. They think they’re an elite quarterback away from fighting for a Super Bowl.
And not for the league, which is taking a public relations beating that won’t subside unless it hits Watson with a more serious penalty than Tom Brady has unleashed for allegedly deflating soccer balls.
And not even for Robinson, who said his relatively light punishment was consistent with league precedent but said Watson’s behavior met the definition of sexual assault set out in the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The question for Watson, who may miss his second straight season because of his antics on the massage table and the lawsuits they sparked, is whether he regrets anything.
Now I mean.
At the March press conference casting him as a Cleveland Brown, Watson argued that none of his actions deserved remorse or questioning.
“I have no regrets,” he said at the press conference. “I’ve never done anything these people claim.”
Three months later, on reflection, he came to feel a certain type of regret, siled and strongly nuanced.
“I have regrets about the impact…on the community and people outside of me,” he told reporters. “And that includes my family. That includes this organization. That includes my teammates in that locker room who have to answer those questions.”
So yes, Watson feels horribly how the fallout from those lawsuits has rippled through the real victims.
Like the Browns front office, which promised Watson $230 million guaranteed without knowing when their investment might pay off.
And die-hard Browns fans. Not the ones who are in conflict over having Watson on the roster, but the ones who will ignore all of his problems if he helps the team win; who would welcome almost any Faustian transaction that can ease the lingering pain of The reader and The Fumble.
Or a Browns offense that, with Watson and new receiver Amari Cooper, could dominate with a simple formula. Feed Nick Chubb until the defense commits an extra body to stop the run, then play throw and catch with Cooper.
When Watson thinks of these people, he apparently feels a pang of… something.
Insidious and predatory
But what plot twists might make Watson take a microscope to his own actions?
If that’s not the six-game suspension Robinson wants to impose, those might be the words she used to describe his conduct.
“It is difficult to give weight to a complete denial when weighed against the credible testimony of investigators who interviewed therapists and other third parties,” Robinson wrote, essentially calling Watson a liar.
She also ordered that Watson only receive massages from team-affiliated RMTs, which essentially orders the Browns to keep him. Why not just issue him a Theragun and wish him good luck?
Of course, the Browns and their most loyal supporters remain committed to their elite and expensive new quarterback. If you want to know what an image rehabilitation campaign looks like, browse the Browns’ Instagram feed, where you’ll see Watson posing with young fans and playing rock scissors with a smiling student.
Would a guy who was committed to making kids happy impose himself on women?
Phrased this way, the answer is “no”.
According to lawsuits and NFL investigators, the answer is “obviously.”
Shield Protection Cost
Outside of the Browns bubble, the prospect of Watson playing this season has fans and critics alike questioning the league’s priorities. Does the league really want to defend the cause of women, like breast cancer awareness? Or does he want to welcome Watson after less than half a season of suspension, without paying a fine or undergoing therapy? NFL management knows it can’t do both without wasting credibility, which could hurt factors the league truly values.
Brand equity. television ratings. Opportunities to expand audience.
If saving it all means repressing Watson, the NFL’s call shows it’s ready to use it for, as the saying goes, “protect the shield.”
But the new proposal could result in measures that would keep all parties in court for months. Fans want to know why Watson initially received a lighter sentence than Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley, who will miss the entire season after betting on a Falcons game he didn’t play in. The union will want to know why Watson deserves a harsher punishment than Dolphins owner Stephen Ross received for tampering, or Patriots owner Robert Kraft received for his own massage spa indiscretions.
Which brings us to regret.
If we give Watson the benefit of every doubt, suppose his 24 accusers fabricated their stories, and conclude that Watson is the real victim, wouldn’t he still regret something?
Its verification process? His judgment of character? His willingness to trust dozens of people he believed were actually crooks?
If he says he has no regrets, he may be lying, which is a problem, but understandable given the stakes.
Or he could be a liar, which is a character flaw and a harder puzzle to solve.
Watson claims to have no doubts about the actions that brought us here. That was his position in March, but a lot has changed since then. That was his position in June, but a lot has changed since then. then.
But if he truly believes that nothing he’s done is regrettable, then he might have a problem that most of us aren’t equipped to diagnose. If I made 24 decisions in two years that all ended in lawsuits, I would at least miss the company I kept.