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‘We’re Looking At This Seriously’: Deshaun Watson Could Still Face Discipline From NFL

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BEREA, OHIO - MARCH 25: Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns is introduced by general manager Andrew Berry (L) and head coach Kevin Stefanski during a press conference at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on March 25, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
Nick Cammett/Getty Images

When the Cleveland Browns traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson, it wasn’t the upgrade at quarterback for the Browns that caught everyone’s attention. 

Since March 2021, there have been 22 civil cases brought against Watson for harassment and sexual assault during massage appointments. While a Texas grand jury declined to indict Watson on nine criminal complaints in March 2022, the civil cases are still pending. 

Watson’s contract — five-years, $230 million — is fully guaranteed, making it the most guaranteed money ever for an NFL player. There have been many who have questioned the NFL’s commitment to taking the allegations against Watson seriously, but on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that the league may still punish Watson for the sexual misconduct allegations. 

“Our people are working on [the investigation],” Goodell said at the Annual League Meeting. “Obviously, these are serious charges. We’re looking at this seriously. We now have obviously at least resolution from the criminal side of it. Obviously there are still civil charges that are going on. So our investigators hopefully will have access to more information, and that will be helpful obviously in getting to the conclusion of what are the facts and was there a violation of the personal-conduct policy. But that determination will be made by a joint disciplinary officer that was established by the NFLPA and the NFL. She will make that decision when the facts are all in, and we’ll see. There’s no time frame on that.”

The NFL’s personal conduct policy stipulates that a player can be suspended for a minimum of six games for “violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will result in a baseline six-game suspension without pay, with more if aggravating factors are present, such as the use of a weapon or a crime against a child.”

Goodell told reporters that teams were aware that the league was going to continue investigating Watson’s case, even after the grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges. 

“We’ve been very clear with every club, whether the criminal matter gets resolved or not, the personal-conduct policy is something that’s very important to us,” Goodell said. “The personal-conduct policy does not need a criminal violation to be a violation of the personal-conduct policy. They recognize that that’s something we’re going to pursue. We’re going to make sure that we get to the bottom of the facts and make sure how it applies to the personal-conduct policy, that’s where we are at at this point. And when we get to that, a decision will be made on whether there should be any discipline and, if so, what is it.”

Multiple members of Cleveland’s organization put out statements following the trade, saying that the team did extensive background on Watson’s situation, and were aware of the concerns surrounding the signing. 

“Our organization did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organization. It was important for us to meet with Deshaun in person as part of our team’s evaluation process, we had a candid conversation regarding his approach to coming into our organization and community. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to put in the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community.”

The attorney representing the 22 women who have accused Watson of harassment and sexual assault told ESPN that no one from the Browns organization reached out to him in their background research. 

“The Browns organization did not reach out to me,” Tony Buzbee told ESPN. “I didn’t expect them to do so, and can understand why they didn’t. But, knowing what I know, they probably should have.”

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to sports@dailywire.com.

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