The NFL has named former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear his case against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, according to a league spokesman And was suspended for six games on appeal.
On Wednesday, the NFL appealed Watson’s suspension, which was issued by a third-party disciplinary officer following a three-day hearing in June investigating him for engaging in sexual coercion and sexual coercion during a massage. Allegations of indecent conduct. Retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, appointed jointly by the league and the NFL Players Association, found Watson engaged in “predatory” and “egregious” conduct, but suggested her powers were limited to greater discipline Punishment. NFL policies and past rulings.
The union has until Friday to respond to the league’s appeal, but Harvey has no deadline for a ruling. The league said the appeal would be heard on an “expedited” basis.
Watson has denied the allegations against him. Two grand juries in Texas have declined to indict him on criminal charges, and he has settled 23 of 24 lawsuits brought by women who said he assaulted or molested them during massage appointments.
This is the first player conduct hearing through a third-party arbitrator, a new procedure set out in 2020 under a collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union. Under its terms, the arbitrator issued a preliminary ruling, which either party could appeal to Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone of his choice. The coalition still wields enormous sway over the final outcome because it holds the equivalent of a veto.
Before Robinson suspended Watson for six games, the NFL called for a one-year suspension. The league is seeking the same penalty on appeal and also recommends fines and treatment for Watson, according to a person familiar with the NFL’s briefing Wednesday but not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The NFL also cited concerns about Watson’s lack of remorse, as did Robinson in her decision report.
Robinson’s discipline did not include fines or counseling for Watson, but as a condition of his reinstatement he did require that only team-approved massage therapists be used in team-directed classes throughout his career.
Harvey, a partner at Patterson Belknap in New York and a former federal prosecutor, has worked to address violence against women, including through the Sexual Assault Response Team initiative he leads as attorney general. He is also a board member of Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit seeking policy solutions to end violence against women and children.
Harvey helped the NFL rewrite its personal conduct policy in 2014 and served on the league’s Diversity Advisory Council, which was established in March.He was a member of the four-man team that advised Goodell during the 2017 NFL investigation and subsequent suspension Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliotthe was charged with domestic violence but not criminally charged.
Goodell suspended Elliott for six games after consulting an advisory panel.
Watson’s accusers’ attorney, Tony Buzbee, held a news conference Thursday afternoon in which he called the NFL’s record on violence against women “sketchy and sad” and urged Goodell make harsher penalties. Ashley Solis, a licensed massage therapist who first filed a lawsuit against Watson in March 2021, read a statement criticizing the NFL’s handling of the allegations against Watson. Solis settled her claims against Watson the night before Robinson announced her decision.
“What does the NFL action say to the little girls who are suffering at the hands of people who are considered powerful?” Solis said. “It’s no big deal? Don’t they care?” She said that was the message she got from the league’s response.
Goodell and the coalition have been criticized over the years for the commissioner’s handling of all aspects of violations of the personal conduct policy, including gathering facts, imposing penalties and hearing appeals.
In the latest CBA, the union has worked to weaken some of Goodell’s powers by having a jointly-approved disciplinary officer hear from the union and union and impose penalties. However, if the Disciplinary Officer finds that there has been a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, Goodell or his designee will still have the final say on the scope of the disciplinary action.
During the 15-month investigation into Watson’s allegations, the NFL interviewed 49 people, including Watson, his 12 accusers and other witnesses. Not all of the women suing Watson chose to be interviewed by the league.
The union could decide to challenge the outcome of the appeal in federal court, as it has done with other player conduct decisions in the past. But courts tend not to interfere with companies and unions that jointly approve arbitration and appeal proceedings, as leagues and players’ associations do.