In the words of one LA-based sports talk host, “Is it safe to say Deshaun Watson got his happy ending” after all.
The Cleveland Browns are in the process of working out a deal to acquire embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Once trade compensation is agreed upon the Browns will sign Watson to a five year $230 million fully guaranteed contract. The highest guarantee ever given to an NFL player.
The trade market for Watson intensified after a Texas grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges last week, stemming from the 22 lawsuits filed against him alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions. The end of criminal proceedings meant the NFL could get back to business and that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Every dollar of Deshaun Watson’s new five-year, $230 million deal is guaranteed, per sources, setting a new record for the highest guarantee given to an NFL player. @Browns and Watson’s agent @DavidMulugheta combine to make history.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 18, 2022
The end of criminal proceedings only means Watson will not be facing any jail time. That doesn’t mean the 22 lawsuits and the allegations levied against him are without merit. The law is a tricky thing. The legal system can simultaneously fail to indict a person on criminal charges as the result of allegations, but hold that same individual liable in a civil case regarding the same allegations.
In this case that’s a distinction that matters to the NFL. If Watson had been indicted there would be no way a team would touch him. He’d be potentially facing jail time and likely wouldn’t be able to play while awaiting trial.
All that remains now are the 22 lawsuits and how they will play out in civil court, and/or how much money Watson will settle them for.
The point is the 26-year-old three-time Pro Bowl player will be able to get on the field and play, which is all anyone associated with the league’s 32 teams cares about. This is an elite quarterback in his prime. In a league that prioritizes that position, you do whatever it takes to acquire one that good.
Of course this flies in the face of what the league pretends to care about. From the league’s code of conduct policy:
“It is a privilege to be part of the National Football League. Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL. This includes owners, coaches, players, other team employees, game officials, and employees of the league office, NFL Films, NFL Network or any other NFL business. Conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL. We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character; we must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.”
Many players have and will likely continue to violate this code of conduct that purports to care about the public and innocent victims. How many players that are guilty or alleged to have commited sexual, domestic, or any other form of assault are still in the league?
Fans and media need to stop pretending that this league is more than what it is. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise whose objectives are to increase revenue year over year though the distribution of its games. Period.
The league is run by billionaires whose objective is to keep the money flowing by any means necessary. Despite what fans think, winning is secondary. The conduct of the players, coaches etc?
That’s way down on the list of priorities.
Of course they can’t appear to not care how people that represent the league behave, so they put on a public face of zero tolerance. But the evidence clearly shows that’s not actually the case.
Again, fans and media need to stop looking at sports leagues in general, but in this case the NFL, to be anything more than it is.
The NFL doesn’t care about the victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault. If they did, anyone accused of or found guilty would be nowhere near the NFL. Regardless of how talented they are.
The NFL doesn’t care about diversity and hiring Black and minority head coaches and general managers. If they did the numbers wouldn’t be what they are and they wouldn’t be facing a lawsuit.
The NFL can afford to not care because fans and media allow it. As long as stadiums are packed, television ratings continue to soar, and revenue is generated, the league has no incentive to care.
Watson will likely face some kind of suspension according to the league’s code of conduct policy. But obviously he will play again, otherwise this deal would not have been made.
The NFL continues to tell us who they are time and again. It’s time to believe them.