The Failure to Discipline

After the NFL investigated the allegations of sexual assault on Deshaun
Watson, the newly signed quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, they appointed a
“disciplinary officer” to hand out a punishment. Sue
L. Robinson
is the woman who received the responsibility of
“disciplinary officer” and deemed that Watson should be suspended
six-games
of the upcoming NFL regular season. She determined that Watson
broke the NFL’s policy of, in short, sexual assault, endangering the well-being
of another, and jeopardizing the integrity of the NFL. While Robinson
recognized the behavior Watson participated in was heinous, she felt that the
NFL didn’t outline a policy on “non-violent sexual assault” that was
of “fair notice” and makes for a suspension of at least one full
season, which was recommended by the NFL. Robinson used resources from the
report the NFL conducted on these cases using private investigators. So, if the
NFL had all this information, why would they appoint a former judge to
discipline something they had the answer to?

Before the stupidity of the NFL’s process to decipher a suspension for
Watson is explained, background into the claims must be heard. The
incriminating evidence against Watson came from his decisions to use private
massage therapists. This is already suspicious considering Watson was provided
with therapists from the Texans, and when he was finding private therapists he
didn’t take the time to find out their personal qualifications, according to the report
from Robinson
. Then, in these private rooms, he would have them massage
parts surrounding the penis, like the glutes and lower back, with only a towel
covering his penis. Allegedly, he would flip from his back side and expose his
penis, touch the therapists with it, and one said he ejaculated on her. The NFL
got to interview 12 of the 24 women who filed civil suits, using four
therapists testimonies to rely on, which are the specifics of the information
that Robinson had, including other exhibits and accounts.

First, the main issue, being the NFL appointing a third-party to decide on a
matter they had the information on. This is a new system, as it was introduced
in 2020, and one that seems logical considering the third-party would have no
bias. However, it seems excessive to implement that as the NFL has access to
any legal help they need because of the billions of dollars they have. There is
no reason to give power to one person on an issue that probably took hundreds
to investigate. A jury of 12 decides the punishment for the defendant, not the
judge, which is ironic considering this investigation referenced the civil
suits made against Watson. A former judge is going to look at this from a
league rules perspective, not worried about the precedent it sets for the NFL
handling sexual assault and making a statement as a business.

While these arguments seem like they are shifting away from the
“fairness” the league was trying to induce in these situations, it
seems the NFL has taken that word too far. The ones that write the player
policy are the ones who should make the rulings on it, not a third-party that
doesn’t value the spirit of beliefs the NFL has. The NFL’s only focus should be
what the people watching want and what the players want. The backlash for a
business who suspends a player for a year based on sexual assault will be
non-existent. No one would pull the card that the decision was unfair besides
Deshaun Watson and his supporters, which isn’t a very big crowd. Now
considering what the players want, the NFLPA wouldn’t go for the one-year
suspension based off their support for Robinson’s decision and them citing the
minimum six-game suspension for violence in the NFL’s Policy, which Robinson
mentions in her report. But if the NFL didn’t make the rule to hire some
third-party, the NFL and NFLPA could work together with the resources they have
to make a ruling, a process much more logical and democratic.

Looking at the ruling, the decision from Robinson is correct based off the
NFL Policy. Robinson was to make her decision “by standards of fairness
and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated.” The NFL’s
defense for the long suspension was that there is no consistency among
“similarly-situated players”, or players who have had situations like
Watson. This is put down by Robinson as she mentions a 3-game suspension for a
player who committed “non-violent sexual conduct”. She didn’t believe
the NFL outlined the equality of “violent conduct”, which has a minimum of
six-games, and “non-violent sexual conduct”, which led to her decision of
six-games because of Watson’s pattern.

Looking at those beliefs from Robinson, it doesn’t seem like she is the one
who is the enemy on the mere six-games Watson receives for his serial offenses.
It is the NFL’s fault. It is understandable to stand by policy, but it is not
to stand by precedent. The NFL is allowed to interpret their Policy in a way so
that is doesn’t need to have precedent to justify it. The fact that Deshaun
Watson repeatedly did this crime is the only justification needed. The NFL set
themselves up for failure by using a basis for reason that wasn’t logical and
seen through by a professional, creating a mess.

This mess comes with the NFL
appealing the ruling
, wanting an indefinite suspension which has a minimum
of one-year, a fine, and treatment. This now has the NFLPA planning to sue the
NFL for their appeal. Now by no means was this a simple situation to handle and
the NFL had put lots of work in finding the truth on what Watson did, but this
could’ve been avoided.

The main kicker in this whole situation is that the NFL made this mistake
before with Ray Rice. They didn’t outline violence enough in their
“Policy” to suspend Rice for more than just the short stint it ended
up being following his assault on his fiancée. They revised the policy after
only giving him a two-game suspension and tried to suspend him indefinitely
after the video was released but that was overturned. They already have failed
at making precedent. Why is that something that the “disciplinary
officer” is bound to?

The NFL is the spotlight of America for half the year. The millions of
people that create memories from going to the stadium, indulged in the
atmosphere, screaming for their favorite team that represents their city, is
what makes it more than a sport. When the men that represent the business
blatantly break the law and the rules of a cherished league, they must
discipline in a way that brings justice and poses a view that the public
respects.

Maybe this appeal from the NFL will work and justice is served, but it is
still embarrassing for the NFL. It was a process made too hard, with an excess
amount of work, and that is being assumed that the appeal is granted. As it
stands now though, this meme
sums this situation up. If you don’t have Instagram, the meme is of a man
smiling, in surprise, with the caption, “Deshaun Watson after sexually
assaulting 26 different women, getting 200 million dollars (referring to the Browns
contract) and only receiving a 6 game suspension.” At this moment, Watson
won, which is obviously not a good thing.

2 thoughts on “The Failure to Discipline

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