April 22, 2024


A day after the NFL announced it would appeal former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson’s disciplinary recommendation against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the league named former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to oversee the hearing . CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones References. Robinson’s investigation into Watson, who has been accused by 24 women of sexual assault and misconduct this season, ended with a recommended six-game suspension. It is now up to Harvey to determine whether Watson will face even stiffer penalties, with the NFL reportedly seeking at least a season-long suspension.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to hear the appeal himself, but by appointing Harvey, he officially redirected the next stage of the process outside his office. Harvey, however, has worked with the NFL in the past and currently serves as an advisory member of the league’s Diversity Advisory Committee, created to improve racial and gender diversity in NFL recruiting practices. He was previously appointed by Goodell to hear Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal of a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence in 2017. Harvey upheld that suspension, which was later delayed but served in full.

Now a partner at the Paterson Belknap firm in New York, Harvey has also served as a federal prosecutor, handling civil and criminal cases involving sexual assault. Its decision in the Watson debate “shall constitute full, final and complete resolution of the dispute” under the NFL and NFL Players Association collective bargaining agreement, the league announced Thursday. Specifically, he will be tasked with determining whether Robinson’s recommendation “should be modified to include professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine and a longer suspension.”

Since investigating Watson, the NFL has sought a stiff punishment for the former Texans QB, who has faced no criminal charges and has since settled all but one of the 24 civil lawsuits filed against him this offseason. Robinson acknowledged in its ruling this week that the league supported the QB’s indefinite ban because of the “unprecedented” severity of his alleged serial abuse involving dozens of private massage therapists. She found Watson’s behavior “outstanding” but recommended only a six-game suspension largely, she implied, because of the NFL’s ambiguous standards for policing personal conduct.

Even if Harvey extends Watson’s suspension, the QB could later sue the NFL through the NFL Players Association and temporarily halt the ban, as Elliott did in 2017 and Tom Brady in 2015, for his alleged role on the Patriots’ “Deflategate” ordeal. But NFLPA lawsuits have mostly, in the end, proven to delay, not erase, suspensions issued by the NFL, meaning that Harvey’s decision is actually, sooner or later, likely to be the final decision on with Watson’s availability for the 2022 season and possibly beyond.


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