On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson, regarding the factual allegations against Brown’s quarterback, Deshaun Watson, found that he did what the League accused him of doing. Her decision to suspend Watson for just six matches came out of separate considerations.
Specifically, it concluded that Watson had engaged in “nonviolent sexual assault”. It found, building on previous precedent, that nonviolent sexual assault did not justify the type of punishment the association sought.
On page 13 of her ruling, Judge Robinson wrote that “previous cases involving nonviolent sexual assault have resulted in much less severe discipline than the NFL is suggesting here, with the most severe penalty being a 3-game suspension for a player who had previously been warned about his conduct.” “.
This player is, we’re told, Saints quarterback James Winston. He was suspended for three matches to start the 2018 season, for touching an Uber driver “in an indecent and sexual manner without her consent.” Winston’s suspension was the result of a negotiated settlement between the league and the NFL Players Association.
Judge Robinson concluded that the league was attempting to significantly increase the penalty for nonviolent sexual assault “without notice of the unusual change” in the league’s approach. The league’s position is that the rules don’t change, but the facts have. On page 12, Judge Robinson explained that the league describes the recommended punishment for the one-year suspension as “unprecedented…because his conduct is unprecedented.”
Basically, the league’s position is that it hasn’t changed the rules. The league’s position is that it applies the existing rules to a set of facts that you haven’t seen before.
As for Winston’s three-game suspension, he only had one casualty. Watson had four. The NFL interviewed 12 people who allegedly assaulted Watson, but was sued by 24 different people — and settled with all but one. Although Justice Robinson manages to ignore these basic facts, most will find it difficult to do so.
Some will find it difficult to distinguish between “non-violent” sexual assault and sexual assault. Sexual assault is still sexual assault. If anything, it appears that clumsy efforts in the past by the league to be lenient with some players prevented the league from getting the ruling it wanted from Judge Robinson regarding Watson.
However, the league obtained the factual findings from Judge Robinson needed to allow the commissioner or his designee to impose a much higher penalty, should the NFL appeal the ruling. Once again, I concluded that Watson did what he was accused of doing. At this point, it would be surprising if the league did not appeal the decision to Goodell, and surprising if he did not increase the suspension.