NFL’s decision on Watson serves no justice for women


Broderick Martel, Staff Writer

Derrick Deshaun Watson (known professionally as Deshaun Watson) is an NFL quarterback selected 12th overall by the Houston Texans, a struggling franchise hoping to find success in the talented young player.

Watson proved to be a top talent at his position, dragging the Texans kicking and screaming to the playoffs and winning the AFC South division, achieving heights never before seen in franchise history. Deshaun Watson however, is also an alleged serial sexual predator who recently signed a 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million dollar contract with the Cleveland Browns. This is the evidence of a toxic culture; a professional sports league that prioritizes arm strength over the safety and well-being of women in America.

Watson’s controversies began in Houston, before the 2021 NFL season. Frustrated with the Texans organization, Watson formally requested a trade, refusing to play a snap until the request was fulfilled. Soon after, in early March, Watson began facing a multitude of sexual assault lawsuits and accusations.

These accusations were from private masseuses, amounting to a shocking 24 different cases. These two situations combined created massive confusion over the future of Deshaun’s NFL career. Fans wondered if he would be traded, or even penalized, and there appeared to be a gridlock. It would take an entire year, during the off-season before the 2022-2023 season, before NFL fans would get their answers.

The first trade rumors began in early March after criminal charges against Watson were dropped. Of course, many teams were interested. After all, the football quarterback is the most valuable position in sports, and there is always a need for young talent at the position. The weeks leading up to the trade announcement were filled with emotion, unease, and hope from fans. Some fans said they would boycott attending games if their team traded for the quarterback.

Then, on March 20, the trade was announced. Deshaun Watson was headed to Cleveland, in exchange for a boatload of draft picks. The trade was one of the biggest in NFL history and soon after, the unprecedented $230 million dollar deal was signed.
Now the NFL had to deal with sorting out a punishment for Watson. Many seemed to think he should either be permanently suspended or not suspended at all, because a temporary suspension would equate to an admission of guilt without sufficient punishment. When deciding on Deshaun’s punishment, former U.S. District Court Judge Sue L. Robinson was hired to act as an arbiter to decide Watson’s punishment. Robinson decided that the NFL sufficiently proved he violated the conduct policy, however she cannot punish him to the level expected. This is because the NFL has set a precedent when dealing with these types of cases.

One such example of this precedent is Ben Roethlisberger, former star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger was suspended only six games for one action of rape. While Roethlisberger did not compare to the sheer amount of cases Watson was dealing with, his situation was considerably more violent and forceful.

Robinson decided on a six game suspension for Watson, essentially forcing a longer suspension from the NFL. I believe this was a truly perfect decision. Robinson made a statement with this ruling, pointing out the hypocrisy of the NFL, while forcing them to come up with a better punishment. As a punishment, it is obviously insufficient, but the statement it made has progressed women’s justice in the NFL by a notable margin.

This suspension was quickly appealed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, searching for a larger suspension. On August 18, Watson was suspended for 11 games and fined $5 million. This decision is controversial and very difficult for a multitude of reasons. The number 11 was chosen for the suspension because of the way the NFL salary cap functions. The way I see it, 11 games is the best way to punish Deshaun and the Cleveland Browns at the same time, but the man being allowed to play at all is completely unjust.

At the end of the day, football is a game, and the NFL is a job. Football players are human beings and should be treated as such. The same expectations set for you and I are the same expectations that should be set for Deshaun Watson. The man was punished, but in 11 weeks he’ll be on your television screen, throwing touchdowns. Fans will buy his jersey, and kids in Cleveland will idolize him. Meanwhile, 24 women will have no justice when Watson steps on a football field, and the NFL will only make more money.