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Egregious Judgement

Cleveland Browns Training Camp Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Yesterday at the Cleveland Browns practice, after the news was announced that former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, after her lengthy investigation on behalf of the NFL and the NFLPA, determined that Deshaun Watson be suspended for 6 games, Watson was loudly applauded by the Browns’ fans.

One fan cried, “We’ve got your back, Deshaun.”

Then came the public posting of this statement by Dee and Jimmy Haslam, the owners of the Browns:

Key words:

  • “objective” —- to describe Judge Robinson
  • “fair” —- with regard to Robinson’s decision
  • “empathize” —- with the victims they don’t identify as victims?
  • “triggered” —- triggered? And they say they “understand” the “many individuals”?

Hear Mina Kimes’ short, salient take on the Haslams’ message:

This is the world in which we live —- a world in which people sell their souls for the sake of power or greed or for doing whatever it takes to gain what they believe will be a competitive advantage. A world that is more and more becoming a rat-infested sewer of lies and deceit. Anything goes, as long as the power mongers win.

Deshaun Watson was able to sit out last season while being paid his full salary of $10.5M. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns and was rewarded with the most lucrative contract in NFL history... a record $230M fully guaranteed. Yesterday, he arrived at the Browns’ practice to a chorus of cheers, hailed as the hero who is going to lead the Browns to its first-ever Super Bowl.

Deshaun Watson, to this day, stands by his belief that he did nothing wrong to the 24 massage therapists who claim that he sexually abused and preyed on them. Watson insists that he was raised by his mother to respect women.

Judge Robinson cited Watson’s lack of remorse as one of the major factors in her ruling on a case of personal misconduct that even she deemed “the most egregious” the NFL has ever seen.

Judge Robinson was hired by the NFL because of the NFL’s poor handling of the league’s personal conduct violations. Like, for example, Roger Goodell initially imposing a mere 2 game suspension for Ray Rice who was caught on camera cold-cocking his fiancee in an elevator.

Yet, in making her decision on Deshaun Watson’s case, she reverted to the NFL’s history of suspensions as “precedent” —- all the while hypoctrically indicating that Watson’s case was unprecedented.

One of the mitigating factors for Judge Robinson was her consideration that Watson’s sexual abuse was of a “non-violent sexual conduct” nature.

Broken bones can heal. Debilitating traumas can often torment a person forever.

America is still in the dark about mental illness.

America is s still in the dark about understanding the nature of sexual abuse toward women.

Abuse in itself is a form of violence. Unwanted touching is an act of violence. Masturbating in front of a stranger is an act of violence. Ejaculating on a massage therapist’s table in front of her face is an act of violence. Dehumanizing a person is an act of violence. Debasing trained professionals by treating them like prostitutes is an act of violence. The fact that a 21st century judge, and a female judge at that, does not grasp this daunting and insidious reality, is exceptionally alarming.

Then, by citing precedence as a reason to relegate the Watson suspension to 6 games, Judge Robinson knew that the NFL hired her in part because of their poor handling of prior personal conduct cases.

Even so, if Judge Robinson was comparing Watson’s case to previous and current suspensions and the nature of those suspensions:

The fact is, if Judge Robinson wanted to look back on the most recent suspensions for comparison’s sake, she needed to look no further than Calvin Ridley’s full-year suspension in which he forfeits his $11M salary.

Seeing as Judge Robinson came to the conclusion that Deshaun Watson indeed violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct policy, that he exerted his position as a star QB, that he willfully preyed in a pre-meditated fashion on his victims and that his case was “the most egregious” in the history of the NFL, how then could she believe that Watson warranted a significantly less severe penalty than Calvin Ridley’s?

Can the judge look anyone in the eyes and say that Ridley’s betting on an NFL game did more to damage “the integrity of the NFL shield” than Watson’s abuse of 24 massage therapists?

As alluded to in the tweet above, DeAndre Hopkins was issued a 6 game suspension for a minuscule (0.01) trace of a banned substance that he claims he had no intention of ingesting.

How could Judge Robinson look DeAndre Hopkins or anyone in the eye and say that Hopkins’ violation of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy is even remotely on a par with Deshaun Watson’s?

The hypocrisy here is outrageous.

Just imagine what Watson’s 24 victims feel today.

As is so often the case, they are apt to feel violated all over again.

Today, Roger Goodell is backed into a corner. The NFL made it clear to Judge Robinson that they wanted Watson to be issued at least a one year suspension. But, because of the NFL’s sordid past in handing out just punishments for PCP violations, they wanted to hire an outsider in order to free them from this burden and potential culpability.

However, as Mina Kimes said eloquently on ESPN’s NFL Live and SportsCenter last evening, Roger Goodell’s already tenuous legacy as the NFL Commissioner will very likely hang in the balance in his decision to appeal Judge Robinson’s ruling, or accept it.

The question becomes —- will Roger Goodell and the NFL stand up for the victims of sexual abuse (and women’s rights in general) or will he abide by Judge Robinson, the Haslams and NFL’s new richest man, Deshaun Watson?

In terms of integrity, this is a Hobson’s choice.

That is, in a world where integrity matters —- and the justice for victims of sexual abuse matters —- perhaps even a little bit more than winning professional football games —- and hailing sexual predators as conquering heroes.