After three days, the Deshaun Watson Vs. the NFL hearings are over. Former Judge Sue Robinson has asked both parties to submit post-case briefs by July 11 and after studying these briefs will render her decision. This means before training camp starts. For three days everyone with a source has reported their impressions of how the hearing was proceeding. Let’s review.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has been pounding the drum for more than a one-year suspension for Watson. However, after a recent Twitter thread he posted, he appears to have changed his mind. First, according to his source, the NFL interviewed twelve of the victims and presented five cases. The NFL’s investigators admitted they have no evidence of violence, threat, force or coercion by Watson. The league also admitted the one-year suspension they are seeking is unprecedented. Finally, the league security director who investigated Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s situation admitted the league imposed no punishment on Kraft.
NFL reporter Albert Breer reported that his sources told him Judge Sue Robinson was not happy with the NFL and their leaks prior to the hearing. NFL insider Josina Anderson said according to her sources Judge Robinson was going to base her opinion on how the Personal Conduct Policy (PCP) was precisely written. The PCP states individuals will be suspended for conduct that is “illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk.”
Both these reports and the fact Judge Robinson wants post-case briefs tell me she is treating this hearing like a court case. Because of the above reporting, the league leaked a statement saying they were confident Robinson would rule in their favor of a one-year suspension.
After reading all these posts and rereading the PCP, I’ve come to the conclusion Judge Robinson will rule no violations of the policy have been committed and thus no suspension. If this is the case the CBA states, the NFL cannot appeal. It would be similar to a judge dismissing a court case. Prosecutors can’t appeal but they can choose to retry the case, 90 to 95% of the time they don’t. Some have mentioned the two parties will come to a settlement before the decision. That’s not going to happen. The NFLPA and Watson are adamant about his innocence and want to show the league hands down arbitrary suspensions based on interpretations of the policy. Besides, this ruling sets the standard moving forward. The NFLPA has to think of all the players they represent. Based on the post-hearing leak by the league, they know they’re going to lose this case.
In conclusion, the NFL based its case for a one-year suspension on five of the twenty-four cases. They admitted there was no violent or dangerous behavior, their penalty was unprecedented and owners are held to a different standard than players. This hearing was not to determine Watson’s guilt or innocence only to determine if Watson violated the PCP as it is written. Is Watson a sexual predator? No. Is he a sex addict? Possibly. Is he what physiologists call a sexual pest? Yes. That’s not a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy in the NFL.