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In the wake of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson receiving a six-game suspension following allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam released a statement on Monday addressing the decision.
The Haslams acknowledged Watson’s cooperation with the NFL investigation and said they “will continue to support” the 26-year-old going forward.
Cleveland Browns @Browns
The Haslams’ statement was not well-received online:
Field Yates @FieldYates
The last time we heard from Deshaun Watson was on June 14 when he said: “Like I said, I never assaulted anyone. I never harassed anyone. I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”
At what point has he expressed any public remorse? https://t.co/l9HZ8nvKtL
Jeff Schultz @JeffSchultzATL
I’m troubled by a lot of things in this statement but mostly “Deshaun is remorseful” because to my knowledge he has never admitted he did anything wrong. https://t.co/8HFJJcjqt8
Adam Crowley @_adamcrowley
“Triggered” is a choice. Watson also has not expressed remorse. He’s denied at every turn. https://t.co/L9M01cIL3g
Former U.S. district judge Sue L. Robinson made the decision to suspend Watson for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He will not be fined, and the suspension will not have a significant impact on him financially.
The Browns signed Watson to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension when they acquired him from the Houston Texans, but he’s only making $1.035 million in 2022. Per Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Watson will lose $345,000 of his salary this year.
Since March 2021, a total of 25 lawsuits were filed against Watson by women who were hired to perform massages while he played for the Texans. The women accused Watson of sexual assault or misconduct, and though he denied the allegations, he has reached settlements in 23 of the cases.
On Monday, attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN’s John Barr that three of the remaining four civil lawsuits were settled. One woman dropped her suit due to privacy concerns.
In explaining her decision for the six-game suspension, Robinson said Watson’s “pattern of behavior was egregious” but pointed out that his behavior was “nonviolent sexual conduct.” She added that Watson should only pursue massages from Browns personnel.
The NFL and NFLPA have three days to decide if they want to appeal the ruling. The league said it is reviewing the decision to determine “next steps.” The players association said Sunday that it would not appeal the decision and asked the league to do the same.