The NFLPA’s defense of Deshaun Watson includes owner targeting

The NFL Player’s Association reportedly has a plan to defend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson if and when the NFL decides to punish him following escalating civil sex assault lawsuits against Watson.

A source told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that the NFLPA, which is required to defend Watson, will argue that whatever punishment Watson faces is not the same as how the NFL has treated three team owners following their off-pitch scandals. Those owners, according to Florio’s source, are Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.

“According to a source familiar with the planned strategy, the NFLPA is currently preparing for a recommendation from Watson’s” unprecedented “penalty league,” Florio wrote.

“The source explains that the NFLPA would partially defend Watson by making an aggressive argument based on the consequences, or lack thereof, imposed on a trio of owners who have recently found themselves embroiled in off-screen controversy. The argument will be that the la Watson’s punishment is not proportional to the punishment of those owners, especially in light of this key line of the Personal Conduct Policy: “The ownership and management of the club or league has traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to a more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur. ‘”

What did Snyder, Kraft and Jones do and how were they punished?

The NFL investigated Snyder on charges of workplace misconduct, eventually fined him $ 10 million and forced him to hand over day-to-day operations to his wife. He was not suspended nor asked to sell the team. Snyder becomes involved in two Congressional investigations stemming from the initial NFL investigation. He recently refused to testify before the House Oversight Committee regarding their investigations.

Kraft was charged with solicitation in 2019 as part of a larger prostitution ring in Jupiter, Florida. He pleaded not guilty and the charges were dropped in 2020 after an appeals court dismissed video evidence against him. Kraft was not reprimanded by the league for his actions.

According to an ESPN report, Jones allegedly paid a total of $ 2.4 million to the four Cowboys cheerleaders who accused senior team executive Richard Dalrymple of filming them in the women’s locker room. The Cowboys rep said the team found no evidence of wrongdoing from Dalrymple, and neither Jones nor the Cowboys have ever been investigated by the NFL.

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson could face “unprecedented” punishment from the NFL. (Photo by Nick Cammett / Getty Images)

How this affects Watson

The NFLPA strategy is less about denying the allegations against Watson – for which there are many – and more about demanding equal treatment for owners accused of similar transgressions. It also means shedding light on the NFL’s application of its personal conduct policy.

So if the NFL suspends Watson regardless of the outcome of the civil lawsuits against him, the NFLPA may wonder why Snyder, Kraft, and Jones have not received comparable punishment for their own scandals.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters in late May that the league’s investigation of Watson was “nearing the end,” but recent further lawsuits against Watson this month questioned when the league would take its. decision.

Watson claimed his innocence until Tuesday when he told reporters he “never assaulted, disrespected or harassed anyone” despite more than 20 cases of civil sexual misconduct against him and a New York Times report describing in detail other alleged encounters between Watson and masseurs.

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