Deshaun Watson

The National Football League announced Thursday that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has been suspended for the first 11 games of the 2018 season for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

Watson, who was accused of sexual misconduct by over two dozen women, was first granted a six-game suspension on August 1, but the NFL, which had sought a full-season punishment, appealed the decision.

The NFL said that Watson would be fined $5 million, with $1 million each coming from the Browns and the NFL to establish a fund to benefit organizations working to educate the public about sexual misconduct and assault prevention.

More than 30 women, including 24 who sued the 26-year-old quarterback, said that Watson made sexual advances on them while giving them massages. According to ESPN, Watson has resolved or agreed to resolve 23 of the 24 claims against him.

Sue L. Robinson, a retired federal judge, and the league’s disciplinary officer jointly selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association decided Watson’s initial six-game punishment. According to her findings, this punishment is consistent with those given to other athletes who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

However, just two days later, the NFL filed an appeal. After Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that the league wanted to suspend Ray Rice for a full year, the parties came to an agreement on a ban of 11 games, which will keep Watson out of action for over half of the 2022 season.

After the news of the agreement became public, Watson issued a statement in which he expressed his gratitude that the “disciplinary procedure” was finally completed. “I apologize again for any pain this situation has caused,” Watson said. “I accept responsibility for my actions.”

The Haslam brothers, Dee and Jimmy, who own the Browns, also issued a statement in Watson’s favor. In Northeast Ohio, the team has pledged to fund initiatives that “will educate our young regarding awareness, knowledge, and most importantly, prevention of sexual misbehavior and the numerous underlying causes of such behavior.”

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The lawsuits allege that Watson committed the alleged wrongdoing between March 2020 and March 2021, while he was still a player for the Houston Texans. The sports community was not pleased with Watson’s March 2018 trade to the Browns and subsequent $230 million deal

As a result of his disciplinary actions, Watson is expected back on the field in Week 13 when his previous team, the Browns, travels to Houston to take on the Texans.

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