As the NFL continues to prolong its investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Deshaun Watson, the NFL Players Association is reportedly preparing an aggressive defense strategy in support of the Browns quarterback.
In the chance that Watson faces an “unprecedented” punishment by the league, the union will take specific aim at the NFL’s handling of Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones concerning their separate off-field controversies, according to Pro Football Talk.
The union’s argument will reportedly be that the punishment of Watson is not proportional to the punishment of those owners — with an emphasis on the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, which states: “Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.”
According to PFT, the union will argue that Snyder, Kraft and Jones received little to no punishment in the aftermath of their separate situations.
Snyder found himself in hot water this year after accusations of a toxic workplace, including sexual harassment allegations within the Commanders organization. A separate report stated that Washington was hiding money from the rest of the league by using two different accounting systems.
In 2019, Kraft was seen on camera engaging in sex acts in a South Florida massage parlor, not long before the Patriots team won its sixth Super Bowl. Although Kraft was charged with solicitation, a judge ruled in January that the footage of Kraft and other customers must be erased because they were filmed during unlawful surveillance, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
As for Jones, the union will argue that the league failed to investigate the voyeurism scandal involving former Cowboys P.R. chief Rich Dalrymple — including questions of what Jones knew, and whether he knew that Dalrymple was secretly recording multiple cheerleaders while they changed their clothes, PFT reported.
The union will reportedly rely on the league’s 2020 implemented independent process for assessing potential Personal Conduct Policy violations committed by players. In Watson’s case, the NFL and its union jointly hired a Disciplinary Officer, retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who could decide to allow the union to fully explore the manner in which the league handled Snyder, Kraft, and Jones.
Watson currently faces 24 active civil lawsuits against him, filed by massage therapists, alleging sexual misconduct. Last Tuesday, The New York Times published a report, which claimed Watson used “at least” 66 female massage therapists between the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2021.
The NFL is in the midst of its own investigation into 22 lawsuits, which became public in March 2021. An additional two lawsuits recently came to light after two of Watson’s accusers spoke out on HBO’s “Real Sports,” which aired in May.
The Browns traded for Waston in March and signed him to a record five-year, $230 million contract fully guaranteed, after two separate grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges in relation to the ongoing sexual assault allegations.
Watson has continued to deny any wrongdoing since the allegations were made public last March. He did the same on Tuesday while addressing the situation to reporters amid Cleveland’s mandatory minicamp.
“Like I’ve said, I’ve never assaulted anyone, never harassed anyone, never disrespected anyone, never forced anyone to do anything,” Watson said.
When asked if the Times’ report that he used 66 massage therapists seemed like an accurate number, Watson responded: “I don’t think so.”
“At the same time, that’s more of a legal question that I can’t get into details about,” he added. “You’ll probably have to ask my attorneys about that.”