Column: Why Browns’ Deshaun Watson faces, deserves lengthy NFL suspension over massage scandal | Sports Columns -

Column: Why Browns’ Deshaun Watson faces, deserves lengthy NFL suspension over massage scandal | Sports Columns

MIAMI — Anybody still doubt Deshaun Watson is guilty?

Anybody at all?

I mean besides Watson’s lawyer and any remaining gullible, hope-blind Cleveland Browns fans still unable to admit their would-be savior quarterback turned out to be a predatory creep and a colossal embarrassment to the franchise and the NFL.


I hear somebody shouting “innocent until proven guilty!” while shaking an angry fist.

Not sure where you learned your math, indignant friend, but when I hear 24 different women accuse one man of the same tawdry behavior and are willing to say it under oath in a lawsuit and civil trial, I believe the women.

And I believe the accused is lying.

(That’s two dozen women-plus, by the way, based on that New York Times report indicating many more women were involved in Watson’s pattern of harassment and unwanted sexual advances against massage therapists).

The fact two Texas grand juries failed to indict Watson on criminal charges isn’t nothing, but neither does it outweigh the testimony of 24 women and the NYT report that Watson engaged 66 women in all in a 17-month period through spring of 2021.

You know, by the way, Deshaun, there are plenty of really good male massage therapists, too.


Probably just coincidence that you chose only women, huh?

It seems more and more likely the NFL will and should bring the hammer down on Watson in terms of punishment and suspension for such a continuous and rather vile betrayal of the league’s personal conduct policy.

One therapist accuser detailed how Watson masturbated and intentionally ejaculated on her.

Vile stuff.

The only way Watson is innocent here is if 24 strangers are all accusing him of the same thing in an odds-defying collusion of lies.

And unless that Times report unearthed different women also in on the conspiracy.

The NFL simply cannot and must not betray these women and its own sense of honor by doing nothing.

Larry Nasser’s victims this week sued the FBI for failing to act on information that Nasser was sexually abusing female gymnasts.

I am not likening what Watson is accused of to what put Nasser behind bars, except to say the NFL must not do now what the FBI is accused of: Look the other way and do nothing.

Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he blew it in 2014 by suspending Ray Rice a mere two games without pay for an assault of a woman with video proof.

Said he won’t err like that again.

Time to prove it with Watson.

Punishment is no longer the sole purvey of Goodell, though.

The NFL now has a chief discipline officer who metes out punishment based on the league’s investigation.

She is Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge.

And Watson will be her first case.

The league (Goodell) would propose a punishment, then Robinson would decide the discipline/punishment.

Goodell then would have final jurisdiction over any appeal by the league or by Watson.

In effect, Robinson would issue the first decision on punishment, but Goodell still has the final say.

The exception: If Robinson found there should be no discipline at all, Goodell would not have the power to overrule and impose a penalty.

But the idea of a no-punishment ruling seems remote.

Ask yourself: If 24 women were alleging the same conduct of an assistant manager at your grocery store, or a car salesman (or a sports columnist), do you think those men would keep their job or go unpunished?

Michael Vick got two years’ suspension for his involvement with dogfighting. I love dogs and all, but what Watson is accused of doing to women is worse.

Ricky Williams was suspended one entire season for, essentially, smoking dope.

To suspend Watson for less than that would be damnable. To not suspend him for more than a year would be odd, too, given that Vick got two years.

MLB suspended Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer two years for a violent sexual assault.

What Watson is accused of is not that, but it is a systematic, prolonged pursuit and abuse of women.

I believe Watson should be suspended for the entire 2022 season in an open-ended ruling that allows for an additional penalty depending on the result of the civil cases coming in ‘23.

I do not agree with the lifetime banishment some call for, but one-year-plus should be the minimum.

Nearly as galling as Watson’s alleged repeated gross behavior is his insistence, in March, that, “I have never disrespected a woman.”

I believe 24 women (at least) would disagree.

Those grand juries failing to bring criminal charges gave Watson an opening to try honesty as a strategy.

To admit he’d done stupid stuff, gotten carried away.

To admit something, some culpability.

An iota of remorse.

An apology, perhaps?

Instead Watson digs in deeper, doubles down on how a multitude of women are the liars here.

As public opinion mounts against him.

And as the NFL decides how hard the hammer will fall.

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