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#pounditThursday, February 2, 2023

NFL had key reason for pursuing Deshaun Watson settlement?

Roger Goodell at a press conference

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson had ample reason to settle his suspension with the NFL. Some have questioned what the incentive was for the NFL, particularly after the league openly pushed for a one-year suspension stemming from multiple allegations of sexual assault/sexual misconduct.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports wrote Friday that there is reason to believe the league and its 32 owners were hesitant to follow through with a full one-year suspension for Watson. Robinson suggested that the NFL was wary of Watson and the NFLPA taking the league to federal court over the suspension, an outcome Robinson had previously reported was likely. While the effort likely would not have been successful, the NFL was not keen to see out the costly legal battle and public relations issues that would come with it.

In addition, team owners were concerned that the NFLPA would begin publicly litigating allegations of misconduct against their ranks if Watson was suspended for a full year. The union has been angry at how the league has acted strongly against allegations against players such as Watson, but come off looking much more forgiving in the face of allegations against owners such as Washington’s Daniel Snyder. That would be another public relations battle that the league would not want to face.

In other words, the NFL was worried about Watson and the NFLPA launching a damaging legal and PR campaign against the league if Watson received the harshest possible punishment. That is certainly a plausible explanation considering a one-year suspension was seen as a near-certainty prior to the settlement being announced.

As for Watson, a settlement was definitely in his best interests considering what the alternative for him would have been. For better or worse, the process essentially ended with both sides wanting to put the entire situation behind them.

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