The NFL has filed an appeal against the six-match suspension of Sue L. Robinson, the referee in the case of Deshaun Watson. Watson has been accused of sexually harassing and/or assaulting at least 24 women while they worked for him as a massage therapist. In a particularly dangerous turn, The Texan sent a help his way in the form of a non-disclosure agreement, designed to prohibit women from speaking publicly about their experiences.
Despite 24 women filing the lawsuit, Watson was found to have visited more than 60 people over a 15-month period. And he was found to have ejaculated into a massage therapist among four people interviewed by the NFL. Watson denies any wrongdoing.
Robinson, a former federal judge, said in his ruling, “Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more severe than any previously considered by the NFL. “
And that is saying something.
The NFL reportedly wanted Watson off the field for another year, but after collectively negotiating player discipline, they were unable to impose that penalty until Robinson made her insufficient call. But Robinson partly stated that she is following a low precedent for “non-violence,” so if the NFL wants to raise the ban on a player who has industrialized sexual assault, they have no choice. other than appeal.
It needs to set a new precedent, and apply its discipline consistently to players and, more importantly, owners.
When you cover the NFL, if you wrote about Ray Rice, you would hear from anonymous Ravens fans who wondered what his girlfriend did to prompt that punch in the elevator. Write about Patriot owner Robert Kraft’s arrest for soliciting sex at massage parlor (fees were later reduced) and you hear from Boston-area activists advocating for massages in massage parlors.
Whether it makes sense or not, the NFL’s stance on this still matters. Becoming a fan of a sports team is not a logical process. It’s a gritty loyalty, a reason to hoard clothes to love Tom Brady with a passion, or hate him. When it comes to issues like the systematic harassment of masseuses, fandoms can lead reasonable people to make complicated arguments about towel sizes and consents because of the feeling they need. Your sense of right and wrong could get in the way of cheering for your quarterback on Sunday. And that can’t happen.
Look no further the crowd of fans is shouting around Watson this week at Browns training camp.
A longer suspension is really just a test for a situation where the league has not managed well to begin with. The first lawsuit against Watson was filed in March 2021 while he was in Texas, and the process coming to the Browns meant he was auctioned off by teams, debated over value and weak tea terminology. “off the field issues” on NFL forums and debate shows, while more than two dozen women are recounting a devastating pattern of harassment.
The New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas explained this timeline briefly on the internal podcast, The Daily.
Massage therapists are professionals, and NFL players and owners have a history of treating them extremely unprofessionally. Two massage therapists filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Jets in 2011and had Kraft arrested after illegal visits in 2018 with Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
There are a lot of NFL fans that are perfectly fine to blame the property damage of this behavior on their team’s winning and losing streak. “What did the therapists wear?” Is that what the NFL wants to be? At least when it comes to players.
If you are the owner, you can use a team of lawyers to solve technical problems or floating on an expensive boat to avoid a subpoena. Command owner Dan Snyder eventually testified before Congress about the climate of alleged harassment in the Washington workplace, but still managed to avoid doing it under oath, a coward. And has the NFL considered this childishness?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would receive less derision from the NFL Players Association and fans if the league held owners to the same standards it holds players for very similar behavior.
If you want to say that there’s a double standard when it comes to NFL discipline, you’ll have no problem here. But that doesn’t mean reclassifying Watson’s sexual assault as nonviolent. Stealing paper out of the copy room is nonviolent. Using someone’s Netflix password is non-violent. Telling an employee that you’re a very important NFL player and then ejaculating into their arm, as Watson is alleged to have done by a therapist interviewed by the NFL, is another type of interaction. .
When we treat all crime as some form of commerce, gender-based crime gets a discount. There is no price for injury, and so the law does not give it an exact value. The women who went ahead talk about how their lives and businesses have been affected. Vrentas reported the amount of feesit’s there for everyone to see.
The fact that Robinson forbade Watson from seeking outside massage therapists was an absolute joke. An unrepentant Watson could certainly find another way to prey on women. The problem is not the massage, but the attacks. Brent Naccara, who is accused in a lawsuit that gave the Watson NDA as a shield against assault charges, is still listed as the Texas Director of Security and Facilities Operations.
The NFL has the fan support and ratings to do whatever it really enjoys. It has made great strides in hiring women as coaches and referees, but the league still has an unhealthy culture when it comes to women. Being more consistent with discipline in cases like Watson, and holding on to teams and owners like Kraft and Snyder, is fundamental.
Finally, If you don’t like anything in this column, please write it up, put it in an envelope and forward it to my yacht.