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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Deshaun Watson showed how dumb the NFL is

“I’ve always been able to stand on my innocence and always said I never assaulted or disrespected anyone but at the same point I have to continue to push forward with my life and career,” said Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson recently agreed to a 11-game suspension and $5 million fine following accusations from 24 women about sexual assault. He was then asked why he was apologizing if he believed he was innocent, to which he responded, “For everybody that was affected by this situation. There were a lot of people that were triggered.” Watson claims that he is innocent, but what are the odds that 24 different people accuse him of sexual assault? The situation is ridiculous on every level, from Watson to the team to the entire league.

 

Let’s start with Watson. He was drafted 12th overall by the Houston Texans in the 2017 National Football League (NFL) draft out of Clemson University. Watson finished top three in Heisman Award Voting as both a sophomore and a junior. In his last season he led Clemson to a National College Football Championship after throwing for 4593 passing yards and 41 touchdowns. A short while later he played in seven games for his first season with the Texans and finished in third place for the Rookie of the Year Award. He had two solid years before breaking out as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, as he led the league in passing yards in 2020. After three Pro Bowl appearances, it seemed like everything was going well for Watson. However, after a disappointing playoff loss to end 2020, Watson requested a trade out of Houston. He ended up sitting out the entire 2021 NFL season due to the trade request, but the Texans refused to trade him. During the season, allegations were brought to the public as women began filing lawsuits against Watson. The next year consisted of legal disputes and NFL discussions as people tried to figure out what to do with him. Watson denied doing anything wrong, but it was obvious that he did something. Even though there were serious legal complications, there were still rumors about Watson being traded to different teams. The Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles were all linked to a trade for Watson. On March 11, 2022, the grand jury cleared Watson of all sexual misconduct criminal charges against him. However, he still had to face 22 civil suits against him by women who described how inappropriate he acted during massage appointments. A week later the Browns traded three first-round picks, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick for Watson. The reaction to the trade warranted a variety of reactions. Some Browns fans were happy to get a great quarterback, while others were hesitant considering the situation. Despite some poor publicity, the Browns immediately signed him to a five-year $230 million extension with all the money guaranteed. An absolutely ridiculous move for the Browns, but more on them later. Over the next month, another two women filed civil suits against Watson, but he ended up settling with 20 of them. The NFL and NFL Players Association appointed Sue L. Robinson to be a disciplinary officer in charge of determining how long a possible suspension could be. She decided on six games, but the NFL appealed the decision. Ultimately, they decided on an 11-game suspension for Watson, which he accepted. Watson has ruined his image forever. Even if he is incredibly successful in Cleveland, there is still going to be that resentment from fans everywhere. A clip went viral during the Browns first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The crowd was chanting, “You sick fuck,” over and over again as Watson played one drive. He was also terrible during that one drive, which most certainly did not help his case. The man appears to show no remorse for his actions and continuously denies everything. It’s definitely hard to root for him. Although his teammates have mostly avoided talking about the situation, there clearly are hesitations. For example, quarterback Jacoby Brissett is set to replace Watson while he is suspended, so he was asked about whether it was going to be difficult to fill those shoes. Brissett swiftly replied, “It’s very easy for me to not be Deshaun.”

 

Watson not only exposed this terrible side about himself, but also for NFL teams. Teams were closely monitoring his situation as they awaited a possible trade. This on its own makes sense. If he was cleared of everything, then it could make sense if your team really needs a quarterback. However, he wasn’t really cleared of everything and definitely still had some legal disputes to work out. All these possible trade teams were ready to take a chance on Watson even though he had some serious issues. Ultimately not every team got him, but even the consideration from some of these teams is something to be disappointed in. The Browns definitely deserve scrutiny considering they actually traded for him. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said “I think in this country and hopefully in the world, people deserve second chances, OK. I really think that …. Is he never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be a part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? That’s what we’re gonna do, OK,” when talking about Watson. This wasn’t the first time the Browns gave a player a second chance. In 2019, footage of current Browns running back Kareem Hunt was published and showed him kicking a woman. At the time Hunt was on the Kansas City Chiefs, and he was immediately released in the middle of the season. The Chiefs were pushing for a strong playoff run and Hunt had just finished his first season in the NFL, where he led the entire league in rushing yards with 1327 yards. But that didn’t matter to them, as they released him anyway. Hunt eventually was not charged for anything, so the Browns decided to give him a second chance. There was some resentment towards the Browns for that signing but not as much as what they got for the Watson deal. The issue wasn’t just the trade, but the fact that they signed him to an extension that made him the highest paid player in the NFL. On top of that, all of his money is guaranteed. This was given to him before the suspension and the situation was settling down. A lot could have happened after they gave him that extension but for some reason the Browns gave it to him anyway. The Browns are a strange franchise. After being terrible for years, they thought they found their savior in quarterback Baker Mayfield. But that quickly went south, so a rift was created between Mayfield and the front office. The team proceeded to trade for the dumbest person on the planet and make him the highest paid player in NFL history. Good job Browns.

 

Watson changed the landscape of the NFL for the worse. Teams were exposed and he painted himself in a negative light. The NFL had a chance to handle his situation that would not completely destroy their image, but ended up showing how ridiculous the league actually is. Firstly, the inconsistencies with suspensions are shown. Watson very clearly did something wrong to these women, considering how many allegations there are against him. It almost seems easy for the league to just suspend him for a minimum of one year. Instead, they suspended him for just 11 games. You may ask, why 11? The original suggestion from a mediator was six games, so why increase by five? Why not just double the length? After a quick evaluation you can see that 11 games would mean that his first game back is against his former team, the Texans. The NFL clearly wants to have the opportunity to make even more money by running this storyline. Go watch Watson’s first game as a Brown against his former team! Everyone knows that sports are a business, and this is very evident from the suspension. It is further shown in Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s suspension. Ridley was suspended for an entire season due to gambling on his team’s game. However, he gambled on his team to win, and he didn’t even play in the game. As soon as the NFL discovered the gambling, without hesitation, they suspended him for a season. Gambling, in theory, violates the integrity of the game; in other words it can cause the NFL to lose money. That’s why his suspension is more severe than Watson’s. In the end, it’s a business so the league is going to do everything they can to do that. Could they have handled Watson’s situation better? Yes. Is the league going to change how they approach suspensions like this in the future? It’s very unlikely, but after the backlash they received it is possible.

 

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