On Monday, Watson was suspended without pay from the first six games of this season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy at private meetings with massage therapists while with the Houston Texans.
The NFL had asked Sue L. Robinson, the former judge hired by the NFL and the players’ union, to rule on Watson’s sentence for a 17-game regular season suspension and the playoffs. No player charged with non-violent sexual misconduct, as Watson has been, has been given a suspension of more than six games, Robinson said in her 16-page ruling issued Monday.
“The NFL has notified the NFLPA that it is appealing the disciplinary decision of Judge Robinson and has filed its briefing this afternoon,” league officials said Wednesday. “Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal.”
Watson has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The NFL Player’s Association has already said it will not appeal. The union declined to comment on Wednesday.
CNN has contacted the Browns for comment.
Watson’s attorneys said the NFL “don’t care about women’s rights” following the Cleveland Browns quarterback’s suspension over sexual misconduct allegations.
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” on Tuesday, attacked the investigation and said he hopes the NFL will appeal the case, but his clients are angry and disappointed at the lenient suspension imposed by a disciplinary officer.
“Don’t expect the NFL to do anything heroic here,” Buzbee said.
Two Texas grand juries declined to charge Watson for crimes.
There have been 24 civil lawsuits filed against Watson, 23 of which have been handled confidentially.
Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin told CNN he won’t comment until the NFL decides whether to appeal.
Judge Robinson said she suspended the 26-year-old for his “predatory behavior.”
“While this is the most severe penalty ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of behavior is more blatant than any previously assessed by the NFL,” Robinson wrote in the 16-page report. counting statement.
But despite those findings, Judge Robinson criticized the NFL for asking for an unprecedented full-season suspension that would last much longer than other players charged with non-violent sexual conduct.
On Tuesday, Buzbee, the attorney for plaintiffs in the Watson case, told ESPN that he hopes the NFL will go ahead with an appeal because that gesture would be well received by prosecutors.
“I think that would change the coverage and I think it would be well received by the women I represent,” he said.
In her findings, Robinson wrote that her decision is limited by the record submitted to her by NFL investigators, former prosecutors with decades of experience investigating sexual assault cases. She noted that Watson had “reportedly worked with more than 60 massage therapists” during the period considered, and that the NFL “only investigated the allegations of the 24 therapists who sued Mr. Watson for damages.”
And of the 24, Robinson wrote that the NFL could only interview 12 alleged victims. They relied on the testimony of four of those 12 in the case submitted to her for review.
Buzbee attacked the way the investigation was conducted.
“None of my clients have testified in federal court. I think that’s a common misconception that four people have testified. That’s not the case. None of them showed up. None of them were asked to testify,” he said. said. “Since those interviews, we haven’t had any contact with the NFL.
“They care about the result. They care about making money,” Buzbee told ESPN.
“They’re trying to manage this as a PR crisis, but to the extent that they’re trying to do something to mitigate these specific women or women’s rights — or deal with women’s rights in general — that’s not part of their mission and they’ve That was made very clear during this process.”
On Tuesday, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said it was “disappointed” by its ruling to suspend Watson for just six games.
“The six-game suspension dangerously reflects the flaws in our criminal justice systems and sends a serious message to our communities,” the organization said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “Far too often those in positions of power and celebrities who commit violence against others are not held accountable for their actions.
“These persistent headlines are triggering so many. To the survivors, we say we see you and we believe you. Your story matters. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is available 24/7/365 online or by calling/texting (216 ) 619-6192.”
The ruling comes after a number of women who worked as massage therapists filed a lawsuit against Watson for assault or misconduct during massage sessions. Last month, 30 women who filed a claim against the Texan organization over Watson’s alleged wrongdoing settled their claims, according to a statement from Buzbee and the Texans.
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, did not play as a member of the Houston Texans last season due to a trade question and the investigation into these allegations.
Days later, the Browns traded three first-round picks for Watson, then signed him to a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, the most guaranteed money in NFL history.
Watson will not be paid during his suspension, but the Browns have structured his new contract so that his base salary is $690,000 the first year and then $46 million for each of the next four years, according to salary tracking website Spotrac.