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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The I-Team with Nexstar’s WJW has confirmed National Football League officials have decided to appeal a six-game suspension a disciplinary officer imposed on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson and the NFL players union have stated they do not plan to appeal the suspension. NFL officials had until Thursday to decide to appeal.
A spokesperson for the NFL released the following statement regarding the decision to appeal:
On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent Disciplinary Officer jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association, issued her ruling in the Personal Conduct Policy matter regarding Deshaun Watson.
Under the 2020 NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), the factual findings of the Disciplinary Officer are binding and may not be appealed. Judge Robinson found that Mr. Watson violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy on multiple occasions and suspended him for six games. The CBA affords the NFL or NFLPA the right to appeal the discipline imposed by the Disciplinary Officer. Such an appeal must be filed within three days and would be heard by the Commissioner or his designee.
The NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal.
NOTE ON THE APPEAL PROCESS
Any response to the appeal by the NFLPA must be filed in writing within two business days. According to Article 46 of the CBA, “the Commissioner or his designee will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), Club(s) and the parties to this Agreement.”
According to the Personal Conduct Policy, the appeal will be: (i) processed on an expedited basis; (ii) limited to consideration of the terms of discipline imposed; and (iii) based upon a review of the existing record without reference to evidence or testimony not previously considered. No additional evidence or testimony shall be presented to or accepted by the Commissioner or his designee. Any factual findings and evidentiary determinations of the Disciplinary Officer will be binding to the parties on appeal, and the decision of the Commissioner or his designee, which may overturn, reduce, modify or increase the discipline previously issued, will be final and binding on all parties.”
The hearing officer, retired Federal Judge Sue L. Robinson, ruled Monday that Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy based on allegations of sexual misconduct.
With NFL officials appealing, Commissioner Roger Goodell or the person he designates will hear that appeal. Whoever hears the appeal could decide to increase or decrease the discipline. Goodell’s office said he was unavailable for comment.
A league official told The Associated Press before Watson’s three-day disciplinary hearing concluded in June that the NFL wanted to avoid an appeal. But the league proceeded with one amid a backlash from some fans and intense public pressure in the media. Other factors include Watson’s lack of remorse, which Robinson noted in her report.
During Watson’s three-day disciplinary hearing, the NFL asked for an indefinite suspension of at least a year. The NFL argued for an unprecedented punishment and wanted to fine Watson at least $5 million. A person familiar with the discussions told the AP on condition of anonymity because the hearing was private.
In her 16-page report, Robinson described Watson’s behavior as “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.” Watson was sued by 24 women who claimed sexual misconduct during massages. All but one of the women have settled.
The quarterback has denied the allegations.
The union and Watson could file a lawsuit if the suspension is increased.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.