The National Organization for Women (NOW) accused the NFL of “enabling sexual misconduct, assault, and violence” against women on Monday following the league handing down a 6-game suspension to Cleveland Brown’s quarterback Deshaun Watson, who made headlines after 24 women accused him of sexual harassment during massage sessions in 2020 and 2021.
“It is unacceptable, insulting, and dangerous — but not surprising — that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will face merely a 6-game suspension — with no fines — following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by more than two dozen women,” NOW said in a Monday statement.
Watson has settled 20 of 24 civil suits with the accusers, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him this spring.
The activist group, which describes it’s purpose as “dedicated to defending women’s rights, advancing equality and combating injustice in all aspects of social, political and economic life,” accused the NFL of having “a vested interest in enabling sexual misconduct, assault, and violence,” and claimed as evidence that the league granted such authority in Watson’s contract.
“The Browns knew that their star recruit would be suspended for at least part of this year’s season because of his record of sex offenses,” NOW stated. “And so they restructured his contract to make the majority of his $46 million first-year payout a ‘signing bonus,’ not tied to him playing actual games.”
It is insulting and dangerous that @Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will face a 6-game suspension—with no fines—following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by more than two dozen women. The following is a statement from National NOW Pres. @ChrisFNunes. pic.twitter.com/Q5JS0gpkdi
— National NOW (@NationalNOW) August 1, 2022
Watson was traded to the Browns from the Houston Texans in March for three first-round draft picks, a third-round pick and two fourth-round picks. He subsequently signed a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns, but as the Athletic explained, “the Browns didn’t make this trade just for 2022.”
“Watson’s representatives negotiated the deal with the Browns to have a $1.035 million base salary in year one,” the Athletic reported. “The remaining four years of the deal have a base salary of $184 million, or 99.4 percent of his base money.”
The Browns knew what they were getting, in regards to Watson’s pending legal issues, the Athletic said. “It’s much more advantageous for Watson to forfeit his 2022 salary than any of his 2023-26 wages.”
NOW did not stop their criticism at Watson alone. The group also took advantage of their statement to include the Washington Commanders.
The women’s group made the comparison of Watson’s situation within the NFL to a controversy involving NFL owner Dan Snyder and allegations of sexual harassment:
Meanwhile, Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder defies Congress and fights legal battles in six states to keep the team’s history of workplace harassment against women and minorities under wraps. Player after player enjoys hugely profitable careers despite being charged or arrested for violence against women.
Snyder and the Washington team came under fire after a 2020 expose by the Washington Post, where 15 women, all former employees of the team, alleged sexual harassment by senior executives and Snyder himself. The team was fined $10 million after an investigation suggested the organization had created a “highly unprofessional” workplace for women.
The Commanders have since taken action to improve the workplace. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a June 2021 statement:
Over the past 18 months, Dan and Tanya have recognized the need for change and have undertaken important steps to make the workplace comfortable and dignified for all employees. … Those changes, if sustained and built upon, should allow the club to achieve its goal of having a truly first-tier workplace.
“The NFL has had a violence against women problem for years—and everyone knows it,” the activist women’s group continued in their statement. “Deshaun Watson must not be allowed to profit from his horrific behavior.”
The group wrapped up their accusations by calling on the NFL to change their business model from one that “allows, enables, and hides sexual misconduct,” and called on the league to respect women and hold abusers accountable.
“Shame on the Cleveland Browns for rewarding Deshaun Watson and shame on the NFL for perpetuating a system where money talks, and women aren’t heard,” NOW concluded.
NOW is not alone in their criticism of the NFL and Watson’s 6-game suspension. Many on social media were angered by the NFL’s decision, especially when compared to other recent player and coach suspensions, Breitbart News reported.
NFL draft writer and recruiting analyst Tristen Kuhn compared several NFL suspensions, including DeAndre Hopkins’ 6-game suspension for a PED (performance enhancing drug) violation:
Calvin Ridley: 17 games, betting
Vontaze Burfict: 12 games, targeting
DeAndre Hopkins: 6 games, PED
Martavis Bryant: Indefinitely, Weed
Josh Gordon: 25+ games, Weed
Darren Waller: 16 games, substance abuse
DeShaun Watson: 6 games, 25 SV accusations
— Tristen Kuhn (@KuhnTristen) August 1, 2022
UPDATE: The NFL is appealing Judge Robinson’s six-game suspension of Watson in hopes of increasing his punishment.
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