The NFL has recommended a season-long suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who recently settled 20 of 24 civil lawsuits filed against him for various sexual misconduct claims.
Hearings started Tuesday over what type of disciplinary action the star quarterback should face. The hearing will consider whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
USA Today reported on Monday that league officials notified former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who is serving as the disciplinary officer for the hearing, about its recommendation on Watson’s case.
A source also told the newspaper that Robinson plans to review documentation from the league’s investigation into the matter as well, adding that she will listen to arguments from attorneys of the league and its player’s union, the NFLPA.
When asked about the recommendation, a league spokesperson declined to comment to The Hill.
In the lawsuits, twenty-four women who worked as massage therapists accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis, or kissing them without their consent during scheduled appointments through the years 2020 and 2021.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Watson, 26, booked more than 60 massage appointments within a 17-month period and obtained nondisclosure agreements from his former team, the Houston Texans, for the massage therapists to sign as well.
One of the 24 women who had previously sued Watson also filed a lawsuit against the Texans on Monday, alleging the team provided Watson with resources to enable his behavior, calling his behavior “disturbing, and predatory,” according to ESPN.
Watson, who sat out of the 2021 NFL season due to ongoing allegations, was traded to the Cleveland Browns in March for multiple draft picks. Recently, two separate grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on the sexual assault allegations against him, meaning the star quarterback won’t face any criminal charges.
If Robinson rules in favor of the league’s recommendation, Watson’s legal counsel and the NFLPA are expected to appeal the decision, but according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the say on the final decision of any possible punishment for Watson, USA Today noted.
The Hill has reached out to the NFLPA for comment.