Watson, who played for four seasons with Houston before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault during treatment in 2020 and 2021.
The NFL has three days to appeal the decision of retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson.
At the conclusion of her 16-page report, Robinson wrote: “Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of behavior is more egregious than any previously reported. be reviewed by the NFL.” .
Although the only discipline in the collective bargaining agreement is a fine or suspension, Robinson mandated as a condition of Watson’s reinstatement “to limit his massage therapy to sessions directed by club and club-approved massage therapists for the duration of his career.”
She added that Watson should have “no negative involvement with law enforcement and should not commit any additional violations” of the personal conduct policy.
The NFL Players Association has already said it will abide by Robinson’s decision. If either side appeals, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates will make the decision, under the CBA’s terms. The union can then attempt to appeal that ruling in federal court.
The league pushed for at least one year’s indefinite suspension and a fine of at least $5 million for 26-year-old Watson during a three-day hearing before Robinson in June, two people familiar with the discussions told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. his identity because the hearing was not public.
Watson, who signed a fully guaranteed $230 million five-year contract, will only lose $345,000 if the suspension does not change because his base salary this season is $1.035 million. The $45 million signing bonus is not affected by the suspension.
In a statement, the league thanked Robinson for reviewing the “enormous record … that led to its discovery of multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy by Deshaun Watson.”
“In light of its findings, the League is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-match suspension and will make a decision on next steps,” the statement said.
Watson can continue to train and play in show games before his suspension begins in the first week of the regular season. He can return to training in Week 4 and will be eligible to play on October 23 when Brown plays in Baltimore.
He was in a training camp with Brown and went on to take on most of the reps due to the first team attack, which will be handed over to support Jacoby Brissett while he is away.
After learning that a ruling was imminent, the NBA issued a joint statement with Watson Sunday night, saying they would not appeal Robinson’s ruling and urging the NBA to follow suit.
“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be distorted at the whims of the association’s office,” the federation said in a statement.
While the NFL pushed for a harsh punishment, the association argued that Watson should not be punished at all because he had not been convicted of any crime.