Think that NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue Robinson’s six-game suspension of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson puts an end to this terrible story?
Robinson’s suspension of Watson for serious sexual misconduct does indeed put to rest one chapter of the story.
But it could also be just the start of another.
Last week, the question was, “how long?”
Now, the question seems to be “no, really, how long?”
Just The Beginning
While Robinson had the authority to levy a suspension, both sides can still appeal.
Watson and the Player’s Association have decided not to appeal the suspension and called on the league to do the same.
In its own press release following Robinson’s suspension, the league made clear it would take its time coming to a decision regarding an appeal:
“Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL or the NFLPA on behalf of Watson may appeal the decision within three days. In light of her findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps.”
Should the league appeal the suspension, Commissioner Roger Goodell would have a big decision.
That’s because the Commissioner can alter a suspension if a decision by an NFL Disciplinary Officer is appealed.
And lest you think Watson’s team is going to sit idly by if the league appeals, think again.
Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up, NFL insider Jeff Darlington reported that Watson plans on taking the league to court should an appeal come down:
“I’m told if the NFL does appeal this, that Deshaun Watson’s side will be filing suit against them to question the authority of Goodell to do so. If that were to happen, we’re talking about injunctions, and all sorts of legal processes, that ultimately could delay this suspension.”
That’s what is going into the league’s calculus of any decision to appeal.
That, and, well, money.
Show Me The Money
Let’s say Watson’s suspension isn’t altered.
He stands to lose roughly $333,333, or a third of his $1 million contract this season.
That’s because the Browns structured Watson’s contract knowing a suspension was likely coming this season.
Next season, however, Watson’s base pay is $46 million.
If a suspension extends into next season, Watson could lose up to $15 million if the six-game suspension carries over to next season.
How might that happen?
If Watson files suit, then, as Darlington noted, the legal system takes over.
An injunction would mean an immediate freeze on Watson’s suspension until the case is heard and resolved.
And while Law & Order is capable of delivering up a legal resolution in 45 minutes with limited commercial interruption, the real legal system would be lapped by a snail.
By the time an injunction is lifted, it very well could be 2023.
At that point, Watson would still face a suspension, which could cost him significant money.
But maybe the league wants that result.
Ultimately, a six-game suspension does little to send a message that professional football cares about serious offenses such as Watson’s.
When a player loses a season for gambling, but another stands to miss just six games for a pattern of sexually offensive and gender-based misconduct, what message does that send?