NFL star handed new punishment in sexual misconduct scandal (VIDEO)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will be suspended for the first 11 games of the upcoming NFL season and pay a fine of $5 million after his sexual misconduct ban was extended following an appeal.
Watson, who signed the largest contract in NFL history earlier this year when he inked a five-year, $230 million guaranteed deal with the Browns following his move from the Houston Texans, had initially been suspended for a term of six games with no financial penalty following accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct related to incidents with various massage therapists during his time with the Texans.
Despite being cleared of criminal charges, Watson was subjected to 24 civil cases from alleged victims – 23 of which are now settled – and former US district Judge Sue L Robinson, who was appointed to oversee the case by NFL and the NFL Players' Association, handed down the initial six-game ban.
However, Robinson said in her determination that the language in the NFL's disciplinary ruleset did not grant her the ability to impose a lengthier suspension for what she referred to in her judgement as Watson's “predatory” behavior.
Following outcry at the supposed leniency of the first suspension, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed that the league would appeal the ban – and following deliberations between the NFL and its Players' Association, a settlement of an 11-game ban and $5 million fine was agreed upon by all parties.
“I'm grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and am extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a press conference shortly after the suspension was confirmed.
“I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my team-mates however possible while I am away from the team. I am excited for what the future holds for me and Cleveland.”
Watson has maintained his innocence throughout the situation, but recently announced that he apologized “to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation.”
“Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
“This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine, and a more substantial suspension. We are grateful to Judge Robinson and Peter Harvey for their efforts in addressing these matters, which laid the foundation for reaching this conclusion.”
Watson will be eligible to make his competitive debut for the Browns on December 4 against, as fate would have it, the Houston Texans.