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With Deshaun Watson, The NFL Couldn’t Win; An Impossible Solution

The NFL has reached an agreement with Deshaun Watson on a suspension and fine. News on the agreement broke early Thursday in a situation that the NFL couldn’t possibly have won.

No matter what course of action was taken, the NFL was bound to lose. On Thursday, news broke that the NFL and NFLPA had reached an agreement on an 11-game suspension for embattled Browns quarterback, Deshaun Watson. The agreement, which has been agreed to but not signed, also fines Watson five million dollars and those funds will be donated to charity. The funds, which hopefully will be donated to Take Back the Night or the Joyful Heart Foundation, could make a great deal of difference for whichever group receives them.

With that said, five million dollars makes up less than three percent of the five-year, $230 million contract extension that Watson signed with the Browns shortly after his trade earlier this year. Certainly, missing two percent of his income doesn’t seem to be a large loss on the part of Watson. Here we are, in an impossible situation with an impossible solution, no matter how easy the answer seems to be.

No Matter The NFL’s Answer On Watson, It Was Bound To Fall Short

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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Lange, USA TODAY

Short of banning Deshaun Watson from the NFL for life, it seems as if the consequences of Watson’s actions were always certain to fall short of where they should have. After all, how many years is the esteem of 30 accusers worth? How many years and dollars can truly make up for the actions of Deshaun Watson? The answer: there aren’t enough.

As Watson gears up for another NFL season — his first since 2020 — he will now have to wait a little longer to take the field for his new franchise. Is the difference between six games and 11 games really all the NFL was hoping for after they appealed the ruling of Judge Sue L. Robinson? The devastation that Watson’s victims have endured at his hand, and in the hand of the media since the firestorm of articles has held the NFL hostage for more than a year, is worth more than five million dollars and five measly NFL games.

Within this firestorm of disgust, it seems as if the NFL couldn’t have possibly found an effective solution to their problem. At least, not without setting aside their protection of profits for their brand. Watson’s new suspension — which will end after 11 games — matches him up against his former team, the Houston Texans, in his return to the field in Week 13.

It surely can’t be a pure circumstance that the NFL chose this date, against this team, for Watson’s return to the field. Did the NFL truly consider their own ratings and profit when settling the quarterback’s suspension with the NFLPA? Short of banning Watson for life, there’s no solution that seems adequate for his actions over the past few years. However, this latest course of action somehow seems even worse, on the part of the NFL.

Comparing Past NFL Action Makes The Watson News Even Worse

It’s difficult to gauge just where Watson stands in the history of NFL suspensions. After all, despite how awful previous events may have been, nothing quite matches up to what we’ve seen as it relates to the current Deshaun Watson situation. Two names come to mind most when comparing Watson and past suspensions in the NFL. When compared, it becomes even more heinous just how “easy” Watson is getting off in this entire charade.

Ray Rice, Running Back, Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice, infamously seen on video assaulting his then-fiancée in an elevator, is a prime example of just how the NFL has treated Watson far differently than they should have. TMZ released a video of the incident on February 19, 2014. Charges were later dropped against Rice, but the NFL went on to suspend him for two games on July 25, 2014. The Ravens released Rice while he served his suspension and he would never play another NFL snap. He was blackballed by the league and never appeared in another NFL snap.

Michael Vick, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

Michael Vick took the league by storm in his six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He was a three-time Pro Bowler before he pled guilty for his part in a dog-fighting ring in 2007. Different from Watson, Vick served 21 months in federal prison for his charges which paused his career for two years. For Vick, of course, the situation is hardly the same. He was unable to play for two seasons while serving his time in federal prison.

Vick, after his release from prison, was conditionally reinstated to the NFL in 2009 under one condition. He could not take part in any of the team’s games until Week Six of the season. The suspension squandered any chance that Vick had at earning the starting quarterback role for the Eagles that season. He went on to make just one start, essentially missing three full seasons from 2007-2009 as a result of his charges.

Those games missed by Vick show that Watson’s missed games pale in comparison, especially when considering the dozens of women who have come forward against Watson.

The NFL couldn’t have possibly won the Watson case. Short of banning him for life, he will continue to be a stain on the league’s character. The NFL has seen fandom among women soar in recent years as a result of additions like Women’s History Month celebrations. Dave Mirin, of MSNBC, laid it out well in a column this past April:

The NFL’s hiring of more women doesn’t make up for its tolerance of stars who abuse them.

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