NFL Unsure of How (If at All) it will Punish Deshaun Watson

John Simmons | March 30, 2022
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The NFL has yet another sticky player discipline situation on its hands. 

Embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson just signed a five-year, $230 million dollar contract with the Cleveland Browns that is fully guaranteed, the highest fully-guaranteed contract in NFL history. While it should be a cut-and-dry signing of a talented player, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Watson has been accused of sexual assualt by 22 women whose civil lawsuits are still active, many of whom were massage therapists. While he has been acquitted of any criminal charges, the NFL has yet to determine whether or not they'll punish him for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

“We’ve been very clear with every club, whether the criminal matter gets resolved or not, that the personal conduct policy is very important to us,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “They understand that’s something we’re going to pursue.” 

It’s funny that the league seems so concerned about making sure that their personal conduct policy is followed and that they claim they will dish out stern punishments to their employees that harm women. But if their track record in domestic abuse and assault cases is any indication of what kind of punishment Watson might receive, it likely will be nothing more than a slap on the wrist. 

Related: Kaepernick Publicity Stunt Draws Interest From 5 NFL Teams 

Here are several high profile cases the NFL had to confront, and what the outcome was for each:

  • Ray Rice was suspended for 2 games and fined $58,000 after violently beating his fiancee in an elevator in 2014.
  • Greg Hardy was originally suspended for 10 games in 2014 after assaulting his girlfriend, but had his suspension reduced to four games upon appeal.
  • Adrian Peterson was arrested on felony child abuse, but only missed four games and a $4.1 million dollar fine in the 2014 season.
  • Richard Sherman had two misdemeanor charges on his record last summer, but paid a small amount of fines and has to attend one meeting to amend for his mistakes. The NFL took no action to discipline him any further.

Doesn’t really look like there’s a whole lot of accountability in any of these cases, nor was there any for Watson. After all, despite being under investigation, he just landed a massive contract after not playing for nearly two years.

We’ll see what happens, but it once again appears that the league that claims to care so much about women won't be changing their ways.