Watson suspension isn’t sufficient

Alice Mitchell

Several days have passed since Deshaun Watson’s extended suspension was agreed to by the NFL and the players association. When the NFL filed an appeal to have more games added to his original six-game suspension, many had hoped and suspected that Watson would face considerable more time. Speculation ran rampant that the controversial quarterback would face at least a one-year suspension. As days passed the rumors swirled that the league was being given time to try to settle with Watson’s camp as to avoid having a second arbitrator override the first decision. The long suspense ended with an 11-game ban and a $5 million fine.

For those who have staunchly defended Watson, the 11-game suspension was still excessive, but the best possible outcome. The Browns wouldn’t lose their heavily hyped passer for the season, just for the entire first half plus some.

For those who have been horrified by the sordid details of the Watson story, the outcome is far from satisfying. Even in the original arbitrator’s ruling, Sue Robinson, she referred to Watson as a predator. His vile behavior is beyond reprehensible and 11 games and a loss of less than a $1 million of his $230 million salary is grotesque. The Browns commitment to donate $1 million to domestic abuse charities is just an additional slap in the face.

Watson stood before a microphone after the ruling came down and stated he was sorry for triggering people and still maintained his innocence despite overwhelming stories to the contrary. The lack of accountability and remorse angers many people in and around the NFL who see this as another example of bad behavior by players and owners not being sufficiently punished.

Watson’s legal team made the argument that the league couldn’t hold him to a higher standard than they do their owners, holding up the examples of Robert Kraft and Daniel Snyder. No one denies that many of the owners have engaged in terrible behavior, Snyder more so than all the rest, but this doesn’t lessen Watson’s actions. The number of accusers alone is staggering. Even Robinson was sure that Watson was likely to offend again. What kind of punishment is 11 games when we’re talking about a serial predator?

Too many people have looked at the accusers and their willingness to settle (one is still refusing to do so) as proof that Watson’s case is overblown and the young star is being railroaded. Lost in this dismissal is the fact that many of these women admitted to being harassed and threatened for coming forward. Their decisions to settle have more to do with wanting to move on and put the entire disgusting incidents behind them rather than continuing to be victimized by Watson defenders. The lack of criminal charges doesn’t make Watson innocent of committing the horrendous deeds, it only means the evidence wasn’t solid enough for a slam dunk case. Prosecutors will not move forward with a case they cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt no matter how many victims come forward.

For a woman who covers sports for a living, this case was particularly hard for me. I have been in the place of Watson’s victims, accusing someone famous of assault results in a spotlight on you not the accused. The lack of a criminal charges only furthering the pain and humiliation. It is being victimized for a second time.

I avoided writing anything when the original suspension came down, hoping a better outcome would emerge. The decision to settle at 11 games is disheartening and disappointing. Despite what Deshaun Watson may say, he is far from an innocent man and the league’s decision to hand down a mere slap on the wrist is a slap in the face to every woman who loves and supports the game of football.