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1 Aug, 2022 13:23

Star NFL quarterback learns punishment after slew of sex assault claims

Cleveland Browns player Deshaun Watson is set to miss the first six games of the season
Star NFL quarterback learns punishment after slew of sex assault claims

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will be suspended for the first six games of the season after he was found to have violated the NFL's personal conduct policy amid numerous accusations of sexual impropriety.

The term, which was handed down by NFL disciplinary officer and former US district judge Sue L. Robinson, does not include a financial penalty for the 26-year-old player and comes after Watson participated in a three-day hearing recently before Robinson, who was jointly appointed to oversee the case by the NFL and the NFL Players' Association (NFLPA). 

The investigation stems from civil lawsuits filed by 25 minutes who alleged that Watson had acted inappropriately while receiving massages between March 2020 and March 2021 while he was a member of the Houston Texans. 

It was claimed that Watson has sourced the massages through social media. 

One of the lawsuits was dropped, while Watson has settled 23 of the remaining 24 cases out of court. 

The NFL had been seeking a suspension of a full season, but this was countered by the NFLPA and Watson's legal team who said that he should not receive any ban whatsoever.

Both sides, the NFL and Watson, had discussed a settlement deal throughout the hearing process but could not come to terms.

It was reported by ESPN that Watson was willing to accept a suspension of 6-8 games but the lowest that the NFL was willing to go was 12 games, along with a fine of $8 million. 

It remains to be seen if the NFL will appeal the decision handed down by Robinson. 

With that taken into account, Watson and his legal team will likely be satisfied with the terms of the suspension which has been imposed - even despite two grand juries declining to pursue criminal charges against the player following investigations. 

Watson has long denied any form of wrongdoing. 

“No, like I said I never assaulted anyone,” he said to the media in June. “I never harassed anyone. I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”

Watson sat out the entire 2021 NFL season while a member of the Texans roster before he was traded several months ago to the Browns in a hugely controversial deal which made him the best paid player in the history of the NFL: $230 million guaranteed over the course of five years. 

Watson is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback and is considered to be among the most talented players in the NFL. It is expected that his understudy Jacoby Brissett will become the Browns starting QB until Watson's suspension is served.

The initial reaction online to the terms of the suspension has left some fans questioning it as being overly-lenient.

“Josh Gordon was suspended for 78 games by the NFL for smoking weed,” wrote on person on Twitter highlighting what they see as irregularities.

“Calvin Ridley was suspended for at least 1 full season for making a bet that his team will win. Vincent Jackson was suspended for 3 games because of unlicensed driving.”

If the terms of Watson's suspension are upheld it will mean his will be available for the Browns in their October 23 game with AFC North division rivals the Baltimore Ravens.