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Deshaun Watson threatens to file lawsuit against NFL in federal court if suspended long-term

Vincent Frank

The entire Deshaun Watson drama is about to come to a head here soon. Watson and his lawyers just wrapped up a disciplinary hearing with the NFL over allegations of sexual misconduct that have been levied in his direction.

The jointly-appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson, is expected to issue a final ruling at some point this month. It’s not yet known what Robinson is going to decide after Watson settled out of court with 20 of the accusers.

What we now know is that the new Cleveland Browns quarterback plans to take this to federal court should the NFL’s goal of a year-long suspension come to fruition once the ruling is issued.

“If Watson ends up incurring the full-year suspension the NFL is seeking – either from the arbitrator or a league appeal of Robinson’s decision – I’m told his camp and the
NFLPA have already made the decision to file a lawsuit against the league in federal court.”

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports report on Deshaun Watson

Robinson also notes that any decision from the disciplinary officer could “bump up against” the start of Browns training camp on July 27. That’s not ideal for Cleveland as it looks to get the new quarterback up to speed.

The Browns want a quick resolution on the matter so they can plan accordingly. With Watson and the NFLPA now threatening to take this to federal court, that might not be the case.

Related: Deshaun Watson and NFL’s highest-paid QBs

NFL still looking at indefinite Deshaun Watson suspension

houston texans, deshaun watson
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It has been reported multiple times in the past that the NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension that would last a minimum of a calendar year. At that point, the Pro Bowl quarterback would be able to apply for reinstatement.

“The NFL insisted on an indefinite suspension while Deshaun Watson’s legal team argued there’s no basis for that punishment as both sides presented their cases in front of a retired judge in Delaware on Tuesday.”

Rob Maaddi’s report on Deshaun Watson hearing

The Browns themselves are bracing for a shorter-term suspension with Watson’s legal team and the NFLPA arguing that an indefinite ban would lack logic.

Their argument is that others within the confines of the league have not faced a suspension despite allegations of sexual misconduct. That includes New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and embattled Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Even then, these disciplinary hearings were jointly negotiated during the 2020 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA. If Watson does indeed receive a year suspension, it’s going to be extremely difficult for him to convince a federal court to get involved.

Despite the fact that Deshaun Watson is not facing criminal charges, the feds would be hesitant to step in. At issue here more than anything is the perceived weakness of the union led by DeMaurice Smith. In short, federal courts don’t like to get involved in collective bargaining issues. And in reality, that’s what this is.