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🏈NFL appeals Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension

August 05, 2022

Content warning: The following contains discussion of sexual violence.

The GIST: Just ahead of last night’s preseason opener, the NFL kicked off what’s likely to be a messy off-field legal battle, appealing Cleveland Browns quarterback (QB) Deshaun Watson’s measly six-game suspension in hopes of a tougher penalty, after multiple women accused the QB of sexual assault. Is the league doing something…right?

The details: After independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson issued Watson a slap on the wrist on Monday, the league exercised their collectively bargained right to appeal her ruling, asking for an indefinite suspension that would include a minimum full-season ban, a fine (notably absent in the initial decision) and mandatory treatment.

  • Yesterday, commissioner Roger Goodell, who many initially believed would hear the appeal himself, selected former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey to do the honors, citing the need for an “expedited” process. Tick tock.

What’s next: It could be a long road ahead. Even if the league follows their proposed speedy appeals timeline, the NFL Players Association (PA) — who reportedly advocated for no suspension — will likely challenge the appeal ruling in federal court, which could take months to resolve.

  • From there, the NFLPA could file a temporary restraining order against the suspension to keep Watson on the field until the case is closed. Umm, trash.

The bigger picture: The timeline might be murky, but one thing’s crystal clear: the NFL’s personal conduct policy is in need of a serious overhaul.

🏈Deshaun Watson suspended six games for violating NFL's personal conduct policy

August 03, 2022

Content warning: The following contains discussion of sexual violence. Take care.

The GIST: The verdict is in. As discussed on yesterday’s episode of The GIST of It podcast, after multiple massage therapists accused Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and misconduct, he was suspended six games on Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Yes, that’s really it.

The details: Appointed by the NFL, retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson made the decision on the case, citing precedent and the fact that the sexual assault was “non-violent” as the reasoning for the short six-game suspension. Wish we were kidding.

  • Watson was not fined by the league and will lose out on only $345K for the missed games because of the sneaky way the Browns manipulated his contract. Notably, his $45 million signing bonus will not be impacted.
  • For now, Watson is still allowed to participate in all pre-season activities (including signing autographs) but can’t practice for the first three weeks of the regular season.

What’s next: Fortunately, the NFL — who advocated for Watson to be suspended for at least a season — can appeal Robinson’s decision and have until tomorrow at 9 a.m. ET to do so. If the league does, Commissioner Goodell would become the de facto appeals officer on the case. What’s the call, Roger?

🏈New advancements arise in Brian Flores' lawsuit against the NFL

August 03, 2022

The GIST: While the league contends with the ongoing Watson saga (more on that below), another bombshell dropped yesterday related to former Miami Dolphins head coach (HC) and current Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Brian Flores’ brave February 2022 lawsuit. The hits keep coming…

The context: Earlier this year, Flores filed a league-shaking suit against the NFL and all 32 teams — citing three teams by name, including the Dolphins — alleging racism in hiring practices. One of just three black HCs in the league at the time, Flores was stunningly fired following a successful 9-8 2021 season, Miami’s first back-to-back winning campaign since 2003.

  • But Flores’ allegations went beyond the apparent discrimination. The suit included claims that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered the HC $100K per loss in 2019, incentivizing him to tank the season to help the team secure a higher draft pick.
  • Needless to say, that’s a big no-no, and it prompted a league investigation into Ross’ actions, which concluded with yesterday’s announcement.

The punishment: In addition to stripping the Dolphins of their 2023 first-round pick, the NFL suspended Ross through October 17th and fined him $1.5M, but not for the aforementioned allegations. The penalties instead stem from Miami’s violations of the league’s anti-tampering policy, with one breach reportedly involving Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady.

  • And while Commissioner Roger Goodell called the tampering findings “unprecedented,” the investigation did not find evidence to support Flores’ allegations of tanking. Yeah, it really is a joke.

What’s next: Despite Ross’ boneheaded statement that the investigation’s conclusion absolves him of all allegations, Flores’ lawsuit is still pending, and it seems it will end favorably for him considering the confirmation of his tampering claims. Fingers crossed.

🏈Houston Texans organization settles lawsuits with 30 women

July 18, 2022

Content warning: This section contains mention of sexual assault.

The GIST: A late Friday news dump brought an update in the ongoing Cleveland Browns quarterback (QB) Deshaun Watson saga.

The latest: On Friday, the Houston Texans settled with 30 women who made or planned to make claims against the organization for its role in the sexual misconduct allegations against Watson. The Texans reportedly provided the venue for some of the the 66 massages in 17 months for their former QB, enabling his alleged pattern of abuse at said massages. Just awful.

What’s next: The settlement comes as we await the NFL’s decision on whether or not Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. A ruling has yet to be handed down following June’s hearing, but it’s expected the shoe will drop ahead of the start of Browns’ training camp on July 27th.

  • If the league does find Watson in violation, they will likely issue a four- to eight-game suspension. Not nearly enough.
  • Meanwhile, the Browns are reportedly planning to add a new QB behind current backup Jacoby Brissett in the event that Watson is suspended for a large portion of the season. Interesting move from a team backwards enough to trade for him in the first place...

🏈 NFL: Times, they are a-changin’

April 08, 2022

The GIST: The hits keep coming in the NFL. On Wednesday, six U.S. state attorneys general (AG) sent a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell expressing concern over the league’s treatment of women employees and warning of potential legal action if no improvements are made.

The details: The letter — signed by the AGs of New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington State — outlines a lengthy list of “potentially unlawful” conduct by the league, including their treatment of employees who experienced domestic violence, “unwanted touching from male bosses” and unequal standards when it came to hiring and promotion.

  • The letter comes during an ongoing congressional investigation into the Washington Commanders’ (mis)handling of sexual harrassment claims.
  • The lawmakers go on to write, “the NFL must do better — pink jerseys are not a replacement for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace.” Preach.

The context: On the heels of former Miami Dolphins head coach and now Pittsburgh Steelers assistant Brian Flores’ bombshell racial discrimination lawsuit in February, this could mark the beginning of a real cultural shift in the NFL. Adding to the momentum, two more coaches — Steve Wilks and Ray Horton — joined Flores’ suit yesterday.

  • Plus, the league expanded its Rooney Rule last month to include women.
  • Flores’ bravery underscores an already apparent but oft-ignored truth in the NFL — change is long overdue. Now, legal action might finally make it happen.