Editor’s note: This story contains reports of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a sexual assault survivor, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
The NFL is preparing for an “indefinite suspension” against Deshaun Watson, according to the statement Wall Street Journalmeaning the Browns quarterback could take a significant financial hit if suspended.
Discussions reportedly included the possibility of Watson’s contract with Cleveland being postponed by a year if he is suspended for the entire season. Shortly after the Harris County grand jury returned nine “no” bills to nine criminal charges against the quarterback, Cleveland traded for Watson and signed a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. A clause built into the contract stipulates that Watson will lose just $55,556 for every game he suspends this season.
Corresponding WSJ, if the delay in his contract had taken effect, the first year of his deal would not have been completely “wiped out”. Instead, 2023 would reportedly mark the start of his five years, which would be delayed if Watson could theoretically achieve a free hand if reinstated depending on the final punishment.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, his hearing with Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer appointed by the NFL and the players’ association, is scheduled to begin Tuesday. The NFL Players Association will “mobilize with an aggressive defense on Watson’s behalf,” which will reportedly include comparisons to the league’s handling of cases involving three prominent team owners — the Commanders’ Daniel Snyder, the Patriots’ Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones of the Cowboys.
As for the league, an indefinite suspension would “give the NFL the flexibility to keep him out longer based on a variety of factors, including whether more cases emerge,” per WSJ. NFL officials have reportedly “zeroed in” on five specific women “whose cases they believe contain the strongest evidence.” The league is reportedly urging the “indefinite suspension” to be no less than a year.
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The reported fishing reflects what The Washington Post recently reported. A source close to Watson’s side told That post that the NFL will “likely” leave with a one-season suspension. However, another source close to the league side said they were “cautious” about a certain length of suspension but the decision was “significant”.
The league and NFLPA have been in settlement talks, but they’ve reportedly not yielded much. The door is reportedly still open for these talks to be revisited during the hearing process. According to several reports, a result could come in the week of July 4th.
Watson faced two dozen civil lawsuits, each containing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that took place during massage therapy sessions. Reports range from Watson’s alleged refusal to cover his genitals to “touching” the quarterback [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.” The latest reported that Watson masturbated and ejaculated on the plaintiff without her consent. It was expected that more could be on the horizon.
The quarterback has denied all allegations against him, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges. Watson has agreed to settle 20 of the 24 civil claims. Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, announced the news on Tuesday. He said the agreed terms and amounts are confidential and “we will not comment further on the settlements or these cases.”
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