Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to participate in training camp as a decision looms about his 2022 suspension. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 10 (UPI) — The NFL requested a one-year suspension for Deshaun Watson because “evidence” confirmed “predatory behavior” from the Cleveland Browns quarterback, commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters.
Goodell commented on the situation Tuesday at a league meeting in Bloomington, Minn. Former federal Judge Sue L. Robinson, whom the NFL and players’ association appointed to settle the disciplinary dispute, announced Aug. 1 that Watson was suspended for six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
The NFL appealed that decision two days later, seeking a harsher penalty.
“We’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said. “[Robinson] was very clear about the evidence, should we enforce the evidence. That there was multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior.
“Those are things that we always felt were important for us to address in a way that’s responsible.”
Watson has faced accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct from more than two dozen women through civil lawsuits.
Those alleged encounters occurred between March 2020 and March 2021, when Watson was the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans. The NFL launched an investigation into Watson the year prior to Robinson’s ruling.
Watson has denied criminal wrongdoing and two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him earlier this year. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped in April 2021. Watson later settled 23 of the remaining 24 lawsuits.
In her decision, Robinson said Watson engaged in “sexual assault” — defined by an NFL investigator as “unwanted sexual contact with another person” — against four massage therapists identified in her 17-page report.
She said that conduct “poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person” and “undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”
The NFL designated former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to rule on its appeal of Robinson’s decision. Goodell did not specify a timeline for that appeal.
The Browns face the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first preseason game at 7 p.m. EDT Friday in Jacksonville, Fla. Watson is entering the first year of a five-year, $240 million contract extension he signed in March after he joined the team in a trade from the Texans.