The NFL and the NFL Players Association may feel good about beefing up Deshaun Watson’s suspension to 11 games, a $5 million fine, and an evaluation and treatment for his behavior. But this punishment, like Watson’s lack of growth from this experience, is lacking on so many levels.
The NFL season is upon us and it will kick off with no Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on the field.
We are all better off for this.
Watson, the ridiculously overpaid star quarterback of the Browns who cashed in after—not before, but after—a slew of sexual misconduct charges were levied against him, will officially miss the first 11 games of the season.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association, well aware from the jump that the initial six-game suspension he was given wouldn’t fly, had to feel pretty good when they nearly doubled it to 11 games, threw in a $5 million fine and included him having to get an evaluation and treatment by a third-party for his behavior.
The 11-game suspension is no big deal.
Ditto for the $5 million fine especially when you consider the Browns acquired Watson from Houston with a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct by 30 massage therapists, and the Browns reward him with the largest guaranteed money contract in NFL history?
So as much as it pains so many of us to view Watson as thinking this entire sordid affair is no big deal, the Browns gave him 230 million reasons to feel that way.
I feel like he’s playing us,” Rita Smith, an advisor to the NFL on domestic violence and sexual assault incidents, told cleveland.com. “He’s not thinking strategically at all about, ‘Did I cause harm to other people?’ He’s not questioning any of his behaviors at all. He’s absolutely certain…‘I’ve done nothing wrong. This is all about people trying to get at me, and I just want to go play ball.’”
One of his accusers, Lauren Baxley, has declined to settle out of court because, according to Baxley, he has shown no remorse in talks surrounding a settlement. “I have rejected all settlement offers, in part because they have not included any sincere acknowledgment of remorse and wrongdoings, nor have they included any promises of rehabilitative treatment,’’ Baxley wrote in an essay for The Daily Beast. “Watson still refuses to admit that he harassed and committed indecent
assault against me. Any settlement offer he has made has been a dismissal of his evil actions, and I know that unless there is an authoritative intervention, he will continue his destructive behavior.”
The Cleveland Brown franchise has had its share of blunders when it comes to assessing talent, but they have never been this far off the mark when it comes to character.
We know talent tends to win out when all is said and done, but this is the kind of hot mess that the Cleveland franchise won’t be getting out of any time soon, even if they are winning games at a high clip.
Because the man the Browns have so heavily invested in, has shown little to no signs of wanting to invest in his own healing which begins with owning up to the fact a change is needed.
No one should make Watson out to be a victim in this mess, a mess that he has created.
But there’s an undeniable aspect in all this in which he is hurting both himself as well as women whose lives will never be the same regardless of how much money he’s willing to pay.
“I’ve … always said I never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone and I’m continuing to stand on that,” Watson said in a press conference shortly after the 11-game suspension was announced. “But at the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career.’’
And does he think cutting a check is going to make everything alright for all those women who have come forward to tell their stories of how he treated them?
He absolutely feels that way, and when you still have folks willing to ignore all the voices and facts spoken by these women who have bravely come forward to speak out on their experiences, coupled with a franchise that gave him more guaranteed money than any player in NFL history, it’s understandable how Watson can be so comfortable in his own stench.
The point in all this isn’t to continue to beat up on Watson for his conduct.
The point is, why isn’t he beating up on himself about it?
He has shown no signs of notable growth in this process, looking very much like a predator bound to emerge from the shadows of seclusion in the near future and conduct himself in a similar fashion to how he has in the past.
In Watson’s mind, he hasn’t done anything wrong which is why he’s more than
comfortable to, “…Stand on my innocence."
Oh, he’s standing in something alright—but it ain’t innocence, people.
Not even close.