On Monday, Watson was suspended without pay for the first six games of this season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy in private meetings with massage therapists while with the Houston Texans.
The NFL had asked Sue L. Robinson, the former judge appointed by the NFL and his players union to decide on Watson’s penalty, for the suspension covering the 17-game regular season and the playoffs. In its 16-page ruling issued on Monday, Robinson said that no player accused of non-violent sexual misconduct, like Watson, has been suspended for more than six games.
“The NFL has notified the NFL that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and has filed a warrant this afternoon,” NFL officials said Wednesday. “Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal.”
Watson has repeatedly denied the charges against him.
The NFL Player’s Association has already said it will not appeal. The union declined to comment on Wednesday.
CNN has reached out to the Brown family for comment.
A lawyer for Watson’s accusers said the NFL “doesn’t care about women’s rights” after the Cleveland Browns quarterback was suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Appearing Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take,” attorney Tony Busby attacked the investigation, saying he hoped the NFL would appeal the case, but his clients are angry and disappointed by the lenient comment the discipline officer issued.
“Don’t expect the NFL to do anything heroic here,” Busby said.
Two grand jurors in Texas refused to charge Watson with any crimes.
24 civil lawsuits were filed against Watson – 23 were settled in secret.
Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin told CNN he wouldn’t be suspended until after the NFL decides whether to appeal.
Judge Robinson said she would suspend the 26-year-old for his “predatory behaviour”.
Robinson wrote in the 16-page ruling: “Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr Watson’s pattern of behavior is more egregious than any previously reported. to be reviewed by the NFL.”
But, despite these findings, Judge Robinson criticized the NFL for ordering an unprecedented suspension of the entire season that would be significantly longer than other players charged with nonviolent sexual behavior.
On Tuesday, Buzbee – the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case against Watson – told ESPN he hoped the NFL would move forward with the appeal because the gesture would be well received by the defendants.
“I think that will change the messaging and I think it will be well received by the women that I represent,” he said.
In her findings, Robinson wrote that her decision is limited by the record given to her by NFL investigators who were former prosecutors with decades of experience investigating sexual assault cases. It noted that Watson “worked with more than 60 massage therapists” during the period under consideration, and that the NFL “only investigated the allegations of 24 therapists suing Mr. Watson for damages.”
Of the 24, Robinson wrote that the NFL was only able to interview 12 alleged victims. They relied on the testimony of four of those twelve in the case before them for review.
Busby attacked the way the investigation was conducted.
“None of my clients testified before the federal judge. I think this is a common misconception that four people testified. That is not the case. None of them showed up. None of them were asked to come and testify,” he said. “Since those interviews, we have had absolutely no contact with the NFL.
“They care about the bottom line. They care about making money,” Buzbee said on ESPN.
“They’re trying to manage this as a public relations crisis, but as much as they’re trying to do anything to secure the rights of these women or women in particular – or deal with women’s rights in general – it’s not part of their mission statement and they are” we’ve made that very clear throughout this process “.
On Tuesday, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said it was “disappointed” with the decision to suspend Watson for just six games.
“The serious suspension of 6 matches reflects the flaws in our criminal justice systems and sends a dangerous message to our communities,” the organization said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “Often, those in positions of power and celebrities who perpetrate acts of violence against others are not held accountable for their actions.
“These ongoing headlines make a lot of sense. To survivors, we say we see you and believe you. Your story matters. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (7/24/365) is available online or by calling/texting (216) 619-6192.”
The ruling comes after a number of women who worked in the massage business filed lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions. Last month, 30 women filing or intending to file lawsuits against a Texas organization over Watson’s alleged misconduct settled their claims, according to a statement from Buzbee and Royal Texas.
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler player, did not play last season when he was a member of the Houston Texans due to a commercial request as well as investigations into the allegations.
Days later, Brown traded three first-round picks to Watson and then signed him to a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, the most guaranteed amount in NFL history.
Watson will not be paid during his suspension, but Brown has structured his new contract so that his base salary is $690,000 in his first year and then $46 million for each of the next four years, according to salary tracking website Spotrac.
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