The abuse scandal surrounding football star Deshaun Watson could be a turning point in the National Football League’s (NFL) mostly lenient handling of the misconduct of its professionals. The league, surprisingly, appealed the quarterback’s six-game ban by a previous US federal judge, and could seek a much more severe sentence. The Cleveland Browns quarterback has been accused of sexual abuse. For comparison, Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended for an entire season for betting on his team (eXXpress reported).
24 women have sued Watson after allegedly sexually harassing them during massage treatments. The athlete has now settled out of court with 23 of them. So far there has been no admission of guilt. The criminal case is already settled, two juries in Texas waived an indictment. And as has happened so often in the past in similar cases in the major US leagues, Watson did not seem to have to fear any harsh sanctions in sports either.
But that could all change for the $230m Browns playmaker. Because the NFL is appealing. NFL boss Roger Goodell, or someone he designates, can now impose a more severe penalty. The NFL requires a ban of at least one season and a fine of at least $8 million. The players’ union, which opposed a ban, could in turn challenge the appeal ruling in federal court. It is unclear whether this threatens a protracted dispute between the league and the union or whether both sides will agree on a comparison.