NFL to appeal Browns QB Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension

The NFL will appeal Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, the league announced Wednesday.

"On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent Disciplinary Officer jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, issued her ruling in the Personal Conduct Policy matter regarding Deshaun Watson," the league said in a statement on Wednesday. "Under the 2020 NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement ('CBA'), the factual findings of the Disciplinary Officer are binding and may not be appealed. Judge Robinson found that Mr. Watson violated the NFL's personal-conduct policy on multiple occasions and suspended him for six games. The CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the discipline imposed by the Disciplinary Officer. Such an appeal must be filed within three days and would be heard by the Commissioner or his designee.

"The NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson's disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal."

The NFL had until Thursday morning to appeal the suspension.

Robinson, a former federal judge, ordered Watson's six-game suspension on Monday, writing in a 16-page report that the NFL successfully "carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson violated the (personal-conduct) policy" by engaging in "sexual assault; conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL."

According to Robinson's report, the NFL argued Watson should be suspended for at least the entire 2022 season. Robinson, however, wrote that she was "bound 'by standards of fairness and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated'" in her decision.

NFL Network's Judy Battista reported Wednesday, citing a source familiar with the appeal, that the league again is seeking a one-year suspension for Watson. NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported Wednesday that the league could also seek a player fine and/or player treatment.

The NFL Players Association announced Sunday that it would not appeal Robinson's decision. The union has two days to respond to the league's notice of appeal.

Per the personal-conduct policy, the appeal will be processed on an expedited basis and will be based on a "review of the existing record," meaning that no new evidence or testimony will be permitted.

"The Commissioner or his designee will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), Club(s) and the parties to this Agreement," the CBA states.

Watson's suspension came a month after his three-day hearing in Delaware before Robinson. The disciplinary hearing concluded on June 30.

Watson has previously denied any wrongdoing and maintained any sex with the women was consensual. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints filed by 10 women.

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