We need to talk about Deshaun Watson’s six game suspension.
Now this may be a controversial take, but I think six games makes sense.
Is six games right? Hell no. Nothing about this is right. But we’re not here to talk about right and wrong. We’re here to judge the wisdom of arbitrator, former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, and the penalty she handed down given all the evidence and testimony available to her.
Ezekiel Elliot and Ben Roethlisberger’s suspensions set the precedent here. As absurd as it is to realize that Deshaun Watson got the same suspension as Deandre Hopkins got for a trace amount of PEDs, or that Calvin Ridley’s suspension is three times longer over a bet he made when he was injured, as an actual arbitrator, you can’t cross-compare violations of NFL policy.
Justice and fairness are not going to align.
Justice would look like victims not having to choose between accountability under the law, and monetary compensation.
Justice would look like the Houston Texans organization having to answer for their culpability and active participation in Deshaun Watson’s extracurricular massage activities.
Justice would look like Deshaun Watson getting his day in court in the event that even one of his accusers invented accusations for financial gain.
Nobody in this situation is going to get what is just.
So we’re left with the awful task of having to determine, using prior precedent, what might be fair according to the details that we have.
Right or wrong, Deshaun Watson has not been charged with a crime. Right or wrong, Deshaun Watson has not publicly admitted to any specific instance of forcing anyone to do anything against their will. Right or wrong, the large majority of Deshaun Watson’s accusers have opted to settle their civil dispute with him without a trial. Right or wrong, in this country, and in this culture, the option of actually charging an alleged perpetrator of sexual impropriety or violence against women is up to the discretion of the prosecutor, not the public.
Deshaun Watson, like Ezekiel Elliot, had accusations reported to law enforcement that did not result in an indictment. Deshaun Watson, like Ben Roethlisberger, is being suspended on the basis of the recklessness of his behavior, and not as an acknowledgement of the validity of the accusations against him.
Some of you listening to this might be on the complete opposite side, saying how can a man’s livelihood be taken from him when there’s been no criminal indictment? And I hear you.
The truth is that we live in a world where an overwhelming amount of instances of violence against women go unprosecuted, but we also live in the same world where a false rape accusation put Brian Banks in prison for six years and cost him everything. Anyone that can’t acknowledge that our system falls short for victims, but has also made victims of the falsely accused, is not a serious person.
Let me leave you with the words that NFL Commissioner wrote to Ben Roethlisberger 12 years ago, words that Deshaun Watson, regardless of whether he’s guilty or not, needs to hear.
“…You are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct… that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans. Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.“
Both Deshaun Watson and the public need to let that sink in.