The National Football League announced it will appeal the six-game suspension to Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson handed out by Sue L. Robinson, the independent arbitrator who reviewed Watson’s case.
Watson had been suspended for six games without pay for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after 24 women accused him of sexual misconduct. The women claim the misconduct occurred during several massage therapy appointments over the past several years while Watson was playing with the Houston Texans.
The NFL had reportedly been hoping for an indefinite suspension for Watson, so is now likely seeking a longer suspension than just six games.
“Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal,” Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s president of communications, told ESPN.
If the suspension is not overturned, Watson will lose his paycheck for those six games, as NFL players are paid per game. So, if Watson were to miss six of the 17 games for the 2022 NFL season, he will miss about 35% of the season, and subsequently 35% of his salary.
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That would normally be a huge financial loss for an individual — but not in this case.
Why not? When Watson signed his latest contract with the Cleveland Browns franchise, nearly all of the allegations against him were public knowledge. But the Browns signed him, anyway, after conducting what they called “extensive” research into Watson’s past transgressions.
Watson signed the highest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history at 5 years, $230 million, with an average annual value of $46 million per season. But Watson won’t be losing 35% of $46 million this season.
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In anticipation of a likely suspension for at least part of the 2022 season, the Browns structured Watson’s contract so that he only makes $1,035,000 of his 5-year $230 million contract as a base salary in year one of his contract, according to sports contract website OverTheCap. Therefore, Watson will “only” forfeit 35% of $1.035 million in salary, amounting to a $345,000 loss.
Additionally, “language exists” in Watson’s contract that the quarterback will not lose any of his signing bonus due to any suspension, NBC Sports reported in March.
Every season in Watson’s contract has a base salary of $46 million, except for the 2022 season. If Watson’s salary were $46 million this year, he would lose out on $16.1 million instead of the $345,000 he is set to lose.
To be clear, any financial losses accrued from this allegations pale in comparison to the mental and physical anguish that many of these women may have to deal with as a result of Watson’s alleged misconduct.
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When the Browns signed Watson to his contract, the team’s owners said, “He was humble, sincere and candid. In our conversations, Deshaun detailed his commitment to leading our team; he understands and embraces the hard work needed to build his name both in the community and on the field,” Jimmy and Dee Haslam said. “We are confident in Deshaun and excited about moving forward with him as our quarterback and supporting his genuine and determined efforts.”
The NFL and Cleveland Browns did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment on this story.
It’s worth repeating that the NFL was not the entity that suspended Watson. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association appointed an independent arbitrator, Sue L. Robinson, to review the case and recommend a suspension for the league. Robinson is a former U.S. District Judge.
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