The Cleveland Browns got a bit of good news on Monday when it was announced that quarterback Deshaun Watson would only face a six-game suspension as a result of his sexual misconduct allegations.
It came as a relief to those who feared the league would hand down a harsh sentence that may have lasted the entire season, or longer.
Sue Robinson, a former federal judge who is acting independently of the NFL and the player’s association, made the decision.
Once she handed down the sentence on Monday, the clock started ticking on the 72 hours either side has to appeal the decision.
Watson’s side has stated it will not seek an appeal, but it is unknown whether commissioner Roger Goodell will.
There has already been an outcry about the lenient nature of Watson’s discipline, as critics have cited the inconsistencies between his sentence and those handed to players such as Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for an entire season due to gambling on games, including those of his Atlanta Falcons.
Calvin Ridley made a bet that his team will win a game in the NFL
He got suspended indefinitely, through at least the entire 2022 season and possibly more.
He also lost $11.1 million in salary.
Deshaun Watson meanwhile received 6 game suspension, he'll only lose less than $1M. https://t.co/hAt2Ft6TmJ
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 1, 2022
Many in the know expect the NFL to not only file an appeal, but to make Watson’s sentence much harsher.
“Multiple league sources and legal experts predict that the NFL will ultimately exercise its right to file an appeal within three days and that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will significantly increase the punishment levied against the three-time Pro Bowl passer, which includes no fine,” wrote Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. “The NFL and the NFL Players Association have until 9 a.m. ET Thursday to file an appeal.”
If Goodell has his way following an appeal, he may even give Watson the type of punishment many initially expected.
“One source expressed a strong belief that the NFL will bow to public pressure and that Goodell or an arbiter he appoints will augment the punishment imposed by Robinson, perhaps by suspending Watson an additional four to six games and, possibly, also adding a multi-million dollar fine.
“One source said that Goodell could even go so far as to hand down a season-long punishment, which is what the NFL argued was appropriate during a June disciplinary hearing before Robinson in Delaware.”
The Precedent Of Some Recent Suspensions
Unfortunately, the NFL has an image problem, and much of it is due to off-the-field incidents by numerous players over the years, some of them violent.
Many pro football players are very family and community-oriented and do wonderful work to assist those who are less fortunate, but many focus their attention on the handful of bad apples who have been disciplined by the league.
Years ago, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault, and like Watson, he was given a six-game suspension by the league (it was ultimately reduced to four games).
Ray Rice, who was a Super Bowl-winning running back for the Baltimore Ravens, violently assaulted his then-fiancee and was suspended indefinitely, although he won an appeal and got reinstated.
Superstar running back Adrian Peterson was suspended indefinitely after a child abuse incident, which resulted in him playing in just one contest in 2014, although he was reinstated in time to play the entire 2015 campaign.
Some feel there is no set metric for determining the length of a suspension, and some criticized the league for being too light on Roethlisberger when he was disciplined in 2010.
There has also been the feeling among some that the NFL may need to make an example out of Watson in order to send the message that it is trying to clean up its image, especially after the Jon Gruden, Dan Snyder and Brian Flores sagas in the last several months.
Women know all too well men like Deshaun Watson. We've all been there. His 6 week suspension is a joke. He gets a slap on the hand, never has to admit to what he did and a hero like Kaepernick is shunned. Something is seriously wrong with the NFL.
— Dr. Strange 🌊🌊🌊🌈🇺🇲 (@Dr_R_Strange) August 2, 2022
But Robinson seemed to imply in her ruling that doing so would be unfair without giving some sort of notice about what the updated discipline guidelines would be if the league wanted to react more harshly to such incidents.