Roger Goodell: Deshaun Watson’s behavior was ‘blatant’, ‘predatory’

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Editor’s note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called Deshaun Watsonthe ‘flagrant’ and ‘predatory’ behavior on Tuesday in response to a question about the league appealing a disciplinary officer’s recommendation to suspend the Browns quarterback for the first six games of the 2022 season.

“Because we have seen the evidence. She [disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson] was very clear about the evidence,” Goodell said, according The Washington Postby Mark Maske. “She strengthened the evidence that there was [were] multiple violations here and they were egregious and it was predatory behavior.

The league is currently seeking a longer sentence for Watson, who was investigated for more than a year over allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault during massage therapy sessions. The NFL’s reported position throughout Robinson’s proceedings was that it wanted an “indefinite suspension” of at least a year, according to the the wall street journal. By ESPN’s Adam Schefterthe league will continue to seek that punishment in its appeal, and ESPN’s Jeff Darlington said the NFL is also considering a possible financial fine.

Goodell nominated former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the NFL’s appeal. Harvey is a member of the NFL’s Diversity Advisory Committee and served on the committee that suspended Ezekiel Elliott for six games in 2017. The NFLPA has answered the call of the leaguehe said on Friday.

“As you know, this is part of the ABC,” Goodell said of why the NFL filed its appeal, by mask. “Two parties had that right. … And it was something that we thought was our right to do, and the NFLPA, and we decided it was the right thing to do.

There is no announced timeline for a Harvey decision, although the NFL has said the appeal will be dealt with on an “expedited” basis. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Tuesday that “we will respect and honor the process” of Harvey’s final decision, by mask.

Robinson said in its decision that Watson engaged in conduct that created “a real danger to the safety and well-being of another person”. However, she said Watson’s behavior “does not fall into the category of violent behavior that would require the minimum six-game suspension” that the NFL has established as “by far the most commonly imposed discipline for domestic violence or sexism and sexual acts”.

More than two dozen women have detailed graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions with Watson in the Houston area. Stories range from Watson allegedly refusing to cover his genitals to ‘touching’ quarterback [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.

Twenty-five women filed civil lawsuits against Watson as of March 2021, and only one dropped her case due to privacy concerns, as of April 21. He is now said to have settled all but one of the civil lawsuits.

The quarterback has denied all allegations against him and two Texas grand juries declined to criminally indict him earlier this spring. A clause built into Watson’s five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract terms, he will only lose $55,556 for every suspended game this season, or about $330,000 if the decision stands.

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