NFL Gives Deshaun Watson Slap on the Wrist for Rash of Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The NFL has issued a six-game suspension to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in response to nearly two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Twenty-four massage therapists have filed civil lawsuits alleging Watson sexually harassed them during the course of of their work — including exposing himself, non-consensual touching with his penis, and forcibly kissing — between 2020 and 2021. Two of the women accuse Watson of sexual assault, including forcing them to perform oral sex. Watson reached private settlements with 20 of the women in June, and three more in July. Two grand juries have declined to indict Watson on criminal charges.
One woman referred to Watson as a “serial predator,” and others allege the NFL protected Watson. The allegations took place while Watson played for the Houston Texans. On July 15, the Texans settled a separate lawsuit, brought by 30 women accusing the team of ignoring and enabling Watson’s behavior, under undisclosed terms. The team settlement came three months after the Texans traded Watson to the Browns, who promptly gave him a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract.
The Browns gamed out how to ensure Watson receives as much of that money as possible should he be suspended because of the sexual misconduct allegations. In anticipation of disciplinary consequences, the Browns reduced Watson’s base pay to just $1.035 million dollars. The move means that Watson will only pay $57,500 for each game his suspension. As sports business analyst Darren Rovell pointed out, the total monetary penalty amounts to only “0.14% of his $230M contract.”
Deshaun Watson loses $333,000 in salary (6 out of 18 games). Salary was made $1M in anticipation of this.
He therefore only loses 0.14% of his $230M contract.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 1, 2022
Watson will also be allowed to keep his $44.9 million dollar signing bonus, as NFL disciplinary officer and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson only ruled that he should receive a six-game suspension, not any monetary fine.
The NFL Players Association — which had argued there shouldn’t be any punishment at all because of the lack of a criminal conviction — and Watson released a joint statement indicating they would not appeal the ruling.