Topline

The National Football League filed an appeal Wednesday of a six-game suspension a disciplinary officer issued for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who fell short of the penalty the NFL was seeking and which critics blasted as too light given the many sexual misconduct claims against him .

Key Facts

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will handle the appeal, and he has the right to make a ruling himself.

The NFL recommended Watson be suspended for the entire 2022 season, but former federal judge Sue Robinson handed down a six-game ban Monday, finding that Watson “engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL)” against four massage therapists.

Robinson, a disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, ruled Watson’s actions did “not fall into the category of violent conduct,” which requires a six-game suspension at the bare minimum.

Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes,

What To Watch For

The result of the appeal will be the final ruling in the disciplinary proceedings. No additional evidence or testimony will be introduced.

Key Background

Twenty-four women have brought lawsuits against Watson, accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. He has settled 20 of those suits, and a Harris County grand jury decided not to bring charges against Watson following a criminal probe. Watson was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns shortly after the decision, agreeing to a five-year, $230 million contract with his new club. The deal is the largest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history.

Tangent

Watson ranked 21st on Forbes' 2022 list of the world's highest-paid athletes.

Deshaun Watson Reportedly Suspended Six Games Over Sexual Misconduct Claims (Forbes)

Deshaun Watson Settles 20 Of 24 Suits Alleging Sexual Misconduct (Forbes)