NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson is expected to issue a decision Monday on whether Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Watson has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. The encounters cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021, while Watson was a member of the Houston Texans. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped following a judge’s ruling in April 2021 that plaintiffs needed to amend their petitions to disclose their names. In June, Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he was facing; the other four remain active and are on track to go to trial next year.
Last month, the Texans reached settlements with 30 women who made claims or were prepared to make claims against the organization for its alleged role regarding the allegations against Watson.
Robinson heard arguments from the league, union and Watson’s attorney during a three-day hearing held in her home state of Delaware in late June. The NFL pushed for a suspension of at least a year, while the NFLPA and Watson’s attorney argued that the quarterback should not be suspended at all. The sides discussed a potential settlement all the way up through the hearing, but could not agree to a deal.
If either the union or league elects to appeal Robinson’s decision, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement. According to the CBA, either side will have three days to submit the appeal in writing.
Although two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year, the NFL has been investigating whether he violated its personal conduct policy since last year. The NFL interviewed Watson over multiple days earlier this summer. The league’s investigators also spoke to several of the women.
Watson has continually denied all wrongdoing and said he has no regrets for any of his actions during the massage sessions. Watson also said he cooperated with the NFL’s investigation and “answered every question truthfully” that he was asked by the league’s investigators.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round draft picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract worth $230 million fully guaranteed, the richest deal in NFL history for any player.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said last week that Jacoby Brissett would become Cleveland’s starter if Watson were to be suspended. The Browns had Sunday off from training camp but are scheduled to resume practice Monday.
CBS Sports first reported that Robinson’s decision is expected Monday.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler contributed to this report.
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