The NFL increased embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s suspension to 11 games, a $5 million fine, and mandatory counseling on Thursday, per multiple reports, settling his personal conduct case. The league didn’t wait on former New Jersey attorney general Peter Harvey’s decision on the appeal of the initial punishment.
Watson was originally suspended for six games by an independent arbiter, Sue L. Robinson, for alleged sexual misconduct. He’ll be eligible to return from suspension Week 13, against his former team, the Texans, in Houston. Watson has been accused of abusing around 25 women during massage therapy sessions and has settled lawsuits from all but one of them, Ashley Solis, who was the first woman to speak out against Watson and his alleged despicable behavior, which he continues to deny but has apologized for.
Amid the number of accusers growing publicly, Watson was traded from Houston to Cleveland with a fully guaranteed $230 million contract. He was set to lose only a smidge of $1 million base salary for 2022, approximately $350,000, or just more than 1 1/000 of the deal. The increased fine is now 2.17 percent of his contract through 2026, when he’ll make $46 million per year starting in 2023.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this month called Watson’s behavior “egregious” and “predatory” as the league appealed his initial six-game ban, with Goodell publicly pushing for the 26-year-old to sit out a full season.
Watson’s 11-game suspension appears to be the middle ground between arbitration and the NFL’s original wishes to pursue a season-long suspension. While any lack of justice brought upon Watson inside the NFL’s sphere might be over, his legal troubles with Solis will continue to play out.
As Watson’s detractors think his punishment isn’t harsh enough, his ban is still an unprecedented length. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, a case in which Harvey ruled upon, served a six-game suspension in 2017 for alleged domestic violence. Antonio Brown served an eight-game suspension for multiple personal conduct violations in 2020. Ben Roethlisberger and Greg Hardy each had longer suspensions reduced to four games for domestic violence and alleged sexual misconduct, respectively.
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