Sue Robinson’s long-awaited verdict came down Monday, but that may be just part of this saga rather than a conclusion. The NFL and NFLPA have an appeal Thursday at 8 a.m. CT, via ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter (on Twitter).
While the NFLPA said it would not appeal Robinson’s ruling, the union is unlikely to step down if the NFL appeals. Roger Goodell whether an appointed commissioner will oversee an appeal, as set forth in the 2020 CBA. The NFLPA has been linked to taking this case to court, should Goodell extend this ban to a full season.
An appeal from the NFL is pending. The statement indicated that a review of Robinson’s ruling is underway (Twitter clutch). While the NFL hasn’t made a secret of its commitment to a full-season suspension, the NFLPA is still unhappy with Robinson’s decision to suspend a six-game ban, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson said. Twitter). “Strongly maintain” the union[s]Watson should not have been suspended for his alleged assault and/or sexual misconduct against more than 20 women.
In her report, Robinson labeled Watson’s pattern of nonviolent sexual behavior “more scandalous than ever before assessed by the NFL.” Watson had denied all allegations of wrongdoing, but the report states “It is difficult to give weight to a complete denial when it is weighed against the credible testimonies of the researchers who interviewed the therapists and other third parties.” Robinson’s ruling also prohibits Watson from seeing a non-team-approved massage therapist for the rest of his career.
Robinson sided with the NFL, arguing that Watson violated personal conduct policy on all three counts (sexual assault, conduct that endangers a person’s well-being and safety, and conduct that undermines the integrity of the NFL). Jake Trotter from ESPN.com tweets. The gray area that this is considered nonviolent sexual behavior played a role in regards to the six-game suspension, but Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes that Robinson’s findings — including a passage that deems Watson more likely to tell NFL investigators lied – could indicate that Goodell had reason enough to extend the Browns quarterback’s suspension.
Given the NFL’s push for a full-year suspension and its efforts to protect against PR backlash, it’s not hard to see a scenario where Goodell continues to add games to Watson’s suspension. This would open the door for an NFLPA countermeasure to take this to court. The CBA and recent precedent wouldn’t be on the side of the union in court, but a legal process underway could delay Watson’s ban. Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott were able to play under bans; Watson could eventually do the same. Brady and Elliott eventually had to serve their commissioner-determined suspension.