Editors’ note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
The NFL will present the cases of five women at Deshaun Watson’s disciplinary hearing with U.S District Court Judge Sue L. Robinson on Tuesday, sources tell The MMQB’s Albert Breer.
Four of the women have already spoken with Robinson, who is the disciplinary officer appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA for the case involving the Browns’ quarterback.
The hearing will begin Tuesday after settlement talks between the NFL and the players association took place two weeks ago. Those talks collapsed after the league insisted on a full-year suspension for Watson, according to Breer. The NFLPA argued for a lighter punishment, pointing to a precedent set in cases involving three of the league’s owners—the Commanders’ Daniel Snyder, Patriots’ Robert Kraft and Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.
Reports last week from The Washington Post and ProFootballTalk revealed the NFL was planning to seek a “significant” and “unprecedented” punishment for Watson. However, the NFLPA was expected to “mobilize with an aggressive defense on Watson’s behalf,” resulting in no settlement and prompting Robinson to schedule her hearing.
On Tuesday, Robinson will take arguments from Watson, the league and the union. Breer reported earlier this month that June 30 was considered an important date in the process, as it is the deadline for pretrial discovery in the four remaining civil lawsuits against the quarterback. The result of both events sets the table for Robinson’s initial disciplinary decision to come just before July 4.
Watson faced two dozen civil lawsuits, each detailing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The accounts range from Watson allegedly refusing to cover his genitals to the quarterback “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.” The latest detailed that Watson masturbated and ejaculated on the plaintiff without her consent.
Shortly after the Harris County grand jury concluded, Cleveland traded for Watson and signed him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. A clause built into the contract mandates Watson will lose only $55,556 for every game he’s suspended this season.
However, Watson agreed to settle 20 of the 24 lawsuits. Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, announced the news last Tuesday. He said that the terms and amounts agreed to are confidential and “we won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”
In the wake of the settlement news, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the “development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”