BEREA, Ohio – The NFL Players Association announced Friday that it has responded to the NFL’s appeal regarding the six-game suspension of Deshaun Watson by NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
“We have provided a summary of the response to the NFL’s appeal regarding the matter of Deshaun Watson,” the league said in a statement posted to Twitter.
The union, which had two business days to respond, had no further comment.
The matter is now in the hands of appellate officer Peter C. Harvey, the former New Jersey attorney general who was appointed Thursday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. There is no set time frame for a decision, but it must be addressed on an urgent basis. The two sides – the NFL and the NFLPA – could try to negotiate a settlement before the referee.
But the NFLPA is still about to file a case in federal court, possibly pending the outcome of the appeal.
“If the new arbiter increases Watson’s sentence – it again triggers a legal battle between the FA and the League to challenge the fairness of penalties and (Roger) Goodell’s authority to punish players for their alleged roles,” said attorney Daniel Moskovitz.And the A Dallas sports law attorney, who has represented several NFL players in NFL investigations involving personal conduct policy, league drug abuse violations and other code of conduct policies.
The NFLPA and Watson legal team can also file in advance of Harvey’s decision, who helped develop and implement the league’s personal conduct policy.
In 2017, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott did not wait for appellate officer Harold Henderson to rule on his domestic violence case before filing a case in US District Court.
Moskovitz said: “After finding that the district court could step in due to a fundamental lack of fairness throughout the process, it ruled Elliott, granting his request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) ordering the player’s suspension.
Elliott was eventually suspended for six games, but played the first seven games of the 2017 season before being dispatched.
Tom Brady also sued in federal court to overturn his four-game suspension, and the ruling went in his favour. He played the entire 2015 season before the NFL won its appeal and the suspension was reinstated. He sat in the first four games of 2016.
The NFL, which fought for Watson not to comment at all, would likely argue that Sue L. Robinson was unable to find a definition of sexual assault in a collective bargaining agreement or personal conduct policy. In short, an NFL investigator, on behalf of the league, defined it during the three-day hearing in June as “unwanted sexual contact with another person.”
Based on this definition, Robinson found that the NFL bore the burden of proof beyond the preponderance of evidence that Watson engaged in sexual assault against the four therapists identified in the report.
But Watson’s team maintained throughout that he did not use force or coercion and, therefore, did not engage in sexual assault. They have committed to a six-match suspension, but will likely fight hard against a much longer ban in the absence of violent sexual misconduct.
The NFL, which had argued from the start for a minimum one-season suspension with the opportunity to apply for reinstatement, is again seeking a full year, along with an “appropriate fine” and a remedy for what it saw as a disturbing pattern of sexual misconduct.
In fact, Robinson described his behavior in her 16-page report as “predatory” and “terrible.”
The NFLPA, led by attorney Jeffrey Kessler, may also look at the precedent set in 2015 in the domestic violence case against former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy.
In this case, Henderson reduced Hardy’s 10-game ban to four on the grounds that it far exceeded any league precedent.
“I find Hardy’s conduct clearly in violation of the letter and spirit of any version of the[Personal Conduct Policy]from its inception, and of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws long before that. The egregious conduct presented here is untenable,” Henderson said in a statement announcing his decision. in the NFL.” “However, ten games is simply too much, in my opinion, to increase the number of prior cases without warning like what happened last year, when a disciplinary “baseline” for domestic violence cases was announced. Or sexual assault as six suspension games.”
Robinson wrote something similar in her interpretation of the six-game suspension even though Watson violated three areas of policy.
“While it may be entirely appropriate for players to be severely disciplined for nonviolent sexual behavior, I do not believe it is appropriate to do so without notice of the extraordinary change that this situation portends to the NFL and its players,” she wrote.
The two sides could also reopen settlement talks, but negotiations continued until shortly before Robinson’s ruling on Monday proved unsuccessful. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the NFLPA was willing to waive 6-8 games, but the NFL wasn’t willing to budge for anything less than 12 games and a fine of $8 million.
The NFL insists that Watson must lose more than $57,500 per game he will owe based on his $1.035 million base salary for the 2022 season. Brown reduced the rule and gave him a $45 million signing bonus to make way for the season. It’s part of a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract extension after Brown was traded for him in March, sending a net of five draft picks to Texas, including three first rounds.
Goodell hired Harvey for many reasons, not least the fact that Goodell is not in a position to process the appeal quickly. He is currently attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrations in Canton, then will head to Minnesota next week for an important league meeting on Tuesday where the Denver Broncos sale will take center stage.
Harvey, a former federal attorney general who is now a partner at Paterson Belknap in New York, is uniquely qualified for many reasons, including the fact that he is one of the most important authorities in the country in sexual assault cases.
Works on the board of directors A future without violence, with a focus on domestic violence, sexual abuse and childhood trauma policy issues. As the Attorney General of New Jersey, his initiatives have included improving and strengthening the Sexual Assault Response Team/Sexual Assault Nurses (SART/SANE) Program to help sexual assault victims progress without fear of being victimized again by the justice system that is supposed to help them.
He also served as designated commissioner on other arbitrations, and was one of four counselors in the Elliott Domestic Violence case.
Harvey “may revoke, reduce, modify or increase previously issued discipline” and his word will be final – unless he sues Watson, which seems likely.
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