The NFL and NFL Players Association are expected to receive a written disciplinary ruling in the Deshaun Watson personal conduct arbitration on Monday, two sources familiar with the proceedings have told Yahoo Sports.
The sources said representatives for the league and union have been notified that former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who is the independent disciplinary arbitrator in the Watson case, is prepared to present her decision on whether the Cleveland Browns quarterback violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and whether a suspension is warranted for any violation.
A potential suspension decision for Watson has been in a holding pattern since a hearing in late June, in which the NFL and NFLPA presented Robinson with evidence and arguments related to the league’s investigation.
Robinson’s forthcoming decision was first reported by CBS Sports.
Watson reported for Browns camp on July 22 and has been practicing with the team as awaits Robinson’s decision. While Robinson’s determination will provide clarity on the next step in the process, there remains some mystery over how each side will respond to her decision. In the event that Robinson determines there is no evidence of a personal conduct violation, the disciplinary case will conclude without any opportunity for appeal.
The more likely outcome expected by the NFL and NFLPA is that Robinson will determine a violation and corresponding suspension, opening a window in which either the league or union can choose to appeal the decision. If neither side does so, Robinson’s decision will be the final word in the case. If either side appeals, the final suspension decision will be moved to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his chosen designee. Following that, the lone avenue to fight any suspension by Watson’s camp and the union would be to attempt to overturn the ruling via lawsuit in federal court.
Watson’s future has been in limbo since a league investigation into 24 civil lawsuits filed against the quarterback alleging sexual misconduct or sexual assault. Twenty of the 24 suits had been settled out of court prior to the news of Robinson’s pending decision. On Sunday, the lawyer for the plaintiffs Tony Buzbee told ESPN that three of the four outstanding lawsuits had likewise been settled, including that of Ashley Solis, who was the first accuser to file suit against Watson. Terms of the settlements weren’t reported.
Sources previously told Yahoo Sports that the NFL presented investigative material related to five of the women who had filed suits against Watson, including direct interviews with four of the alleged victims and other digital exhibits. At the time of the hearing, the NFL was seeking an indefinite suspension of at least one year, after which Watson would have to apply for reinstatement by Goodell.
The NFLPA released a statement Sunday night declaring their intention to accept Robinson’s decision — and apparently stand down in any appeal effort — while calling on the NFL to do the same.
“In advance of Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding. First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former Federal Judge — appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL — held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative documents and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially. Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.”