Is The NFL Appeal Of Deshaun Watson’s Suspension A Case Of Righting A Wrong Or Political Theater?

The NFL is engaging in its case of political theater with Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s case. After being handed a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, with no fine, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell then clarified that he intended to appeal disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s Monday ruling.

“The NFL’s appeal addresses whether, based on the findings made by Judge Robinson, the discipline should be modified to include a professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine, and a longer suspension,” said the league in a statement.

Although widespread consensus is that Watson did deserve some form of punishment, now that it was issued the question is why is the league seeking more?

Former NFL player-turned-co-host of “Undisputed” Shannon Sharpe also doesn’t believe that Watson should have gotten off without any punishment; the number of allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by massage therapists was outrageous. However, he raised a point about why the NFL would hire Judge Robinson to oversee and rule on issues of this matter in the first place.

Perception could allow it to be seen as a slap in the face of a judge with years of experience dealing with these cases, mainly when she was recruited to remedy the NFL’s poor track record of going soft on domestic violence.

“Your first test case of this situation; you’ve got Sue Robinson, a former federal judge. You appeal it because you didn’t like the ruling,” said Sharpe on “Undisputed.” “If a player doesn’t like a ruling, he has to appeal to commissioner Goodell and have him appoint somebody that is employed by the NFL. It’s a terrible look for the league. I don’t care. You can’t base everything that you do on public outcry, and it seems to me that’s what the commissioner and the NFL is doing in this situation.

“The NFL heard what the general public and the masses were saying and what we were saying on television and that was more than he could bear. I’m somewhat surprised because I thought that since this was the initial [test case with Judge Robinson] the league was going to stand down. But I’m not shocked because the NFL doesn’t like losing.”

When the Watson ruling was made, both the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and the National Organization of Women released statements condemning the decision. Now the American Massage Therapy Association joined in expressing their disappointment. The organization is hosting its annual conference in downtown Cleveland on Aug. 25-27, minutes from the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium.

“AMTA strongly believes that any client who steps over the line to inappropriate touch should face the legal consequences,” the organization said in a statement. “And it’s disappointing to see such a relatively light punishment from the NFL levied toward Deshaun Watson in their findings of his violation of the league’s personal-conduct policy.

“If the NFL is concerned about professionalism and upholding high standards in the league, creating a safe workplace for all members of athletes’ care teams should be a priority. We hope the league is taking measures to ensure that the massage therapists on the Browns’ personnel and throughout the NFL, as well as those supporting individual athletes, are able to work in a safe and professional environment.”

With public pressure making the NFL rethink its initial strategy, it opens speculation of whether the appeal is about righting a wrong or reacting to the public backlash only.

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