The Deshaun Watson Ruling Is An Indictment of Everyone Except Deshaun Watson

New personal conduct policy and player discipline process; same ol’ disquieting results.

John Gorman
8 min readAug 18, 2022


(Deshaun Watson // Wikipedia)

On August 18, the NFL doled out its final ruling on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, increasing his suspension from six to 11 games and forcing him to pay an additional $5 million in fines.

The monetary punishment is an NFL record and the extended enforced absence is nearly double what the independent arbitrator initially recommended. Still, the resolution comes after nearly two years of legal and labor back-and-forths, a seemingly endless parade bad headlines and worse revelations, and — and this cannot be underscored enough — Watson set himself up in a new city with a guaranteed $230 million windfall even if he never plays another snap.

When pressed by reporters for a reaction, Watson said he was “grateful.” He should be. It could’ve gone plenty worse for a man who has already settled twenty separate civil cases of sexual misconduct. He then added, “I take accountability for the decisions I made.” If you’ve been following the news since it first broke, you know that’s a masterclass in handwaving.

Throughout the proceedings, Deshaun Watson has taken precisely zero accountability. His dearth of regard or remorse remains among the coldest image rehabilitation strategies on record. Yet, if we’re looking to ask for more out of anyone, we need to once again return to a familiar object of scorn: The NFL and the men who populate the league office, team offices, and locker rooms.

This Time Was Supposed to be Different

The NFL came into this new case trying to outrun its own checkered history of dealing with gendered violence among its ranks. A new collectively bargained personal conduct policy and player discipline process hoped to standardize and streamline things while setting precedents that aimed for consistency.

Drawn-out processes and arbitrary rulings were part and parcel of the old system — try drawing a throughline between Ben Roethlisberger, Ray Rice, Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Brown, and Jameis Winston, to pick five names at random — and this go-around hoped to…



John Gorman

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