Roger Goodell defends Deshaun Watson’s suspension appeal, cites evidence of ‘predatory behavior’


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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has defended the decision to appeal the six-game suspension imposed on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson by an independent disciplinary officer last week.

Goodell said Tuesday he believed the evidence called for a one-year ban instead of just 33% of the regular season. He said retired Judge Sue L. Robinson was “very clear” about the facts presented in her 16-page report in which she went on to be “blatant” and “predatory” to describe Watson’s actions.

“Because we’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said when asked why the NFL was asking for a longer sentence. “She (Robinson) was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there were multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media after the close of the NFL Owners Meeting on March 29, 2022, at The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

“These are still things that we felt were really important to address and in a responsible way.”

Goodell cited the collective bargaining agreement to empower the league to seek more discipline.

“Either party could certainly challenge and appeal and that was something that we felt was our right to do as well as the NFLPA,” he said. “So we decided it was the right thing to do.”

Goodell appointed Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, to handle the appeal. Goodell said he had no timeline as to when Harvey would make the decision, but needed to be “accelerated.”

Watson has faced 24 civil lawsuits accusing her of sexual misconduct with massage therapists. He settled 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits before the suspension was announced. He was investigated by two Texas grand juries, but avoided criminal prosecution.

MASSAGE THERAPIST CONVENTION TO HELD IN CLEVELAND AS DESHAUN WATSON REMAINS IN THE NEWS

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson walks off the field after NFL football team training camp, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson walks off the field after NFL football team training camp, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.
(AP Photo/David Richard)

Watson has denied any wrongdoing throughout the matter and made his position clear during his introductory press conference after being traded to the Browns from the Houston Texans.

“I have never assaulted, disrespected or harassed a woman in my life,” Watson said as he sat next to head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. “I was raised differently. It’s not my DNA. It’s not my culture. It’s not me as a person.”

In July, the Texans settled with 30 women after the team was accused of ignoring concerns and allowing Watson. The terms of the settlement have been kept confidential.

Watson missed the 2021 season as he originally requested a trade from the Texans. He signed a fully guaranteed five-year contract with the Browns upon joining the team.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson participates in drills during NFL football team training camp, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson participates in drills during NFL football team training camp, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.
(AP Photo/Nick Cammett)

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In 2020, Watson had 4,823 passing yards and 33 touchdowns.

He is expected to travel with the Browns for their preseason opener on Friday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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