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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Watson will cost the Browns a lot of money, but that’s just part of the equation

Cleveland Browns, you’ve got a problem on your hands right now. The fact that you courted Deshaun Watson and took him in as a member of your family and gave him the richest guaranteed contract in NFL history despite his tarnished reputation and the numerous women who have accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions speaks volumes about your character.

Now, in addition to dealing with his outstanding abilities as a quarterback, you must also contend with the storm cloud he generates.

A grand jury decided on March 11 not to file criminal charges against him, but the threat of prosecution will continue to loom large and unavoidably close in on him.

Watson’s legal struggles are still ongoing. There are still 22 legal lawsuits pending claiming abuse.

Even if Watson, 26, avoids a civil trial and settles those claims by paying his accusers and negotiating a deal with them in exchange for their silence — a frequent tactic when rich, powerful men are confronted with a barrage of horrific allegations — few will ever forget what happened to him.

This is a complicated issue that raises a number of problems that we’ve become all too familiar with in sports. And, like with so many other things in contemporary life, it will cause division.

Many Watson supporters will remain steadfast in their support. Because of the ruling of the grand jury, the quarterback’s accusers will argue that he was treated unfairly. In the same way that they will accept Watson’s denials of wrongdoing, they will also accept his lawyer’s explanation. Watson’s lawyer has admitted that, yes, there were consensual encounters between Watson and some of the 22 women who filed lawsuits against him, but that whatever happened was “mutually desired.”

It will be said that it is time to move on by those fans who have been ensnared, maybe, by the attraction of celebrity in a world where sports heroes are too frequently seen as practically infallible gods.

However, a large number of people will remember and are unlikely to forgive. Instead, they will consider the complete picture, which includes the slew of allegations from women who have come forward with accounts of Watson exposing himself, groping them with his genitals, or ejaculating on them, among other things. Three of the criminal accusations made against the defendants involved sexual assault or sexual assault attempts.

No matter how “humble, true, and open” the team’s owners found him to be in interviews, and no matter how well the Cleveland Browns play on the field, contempt will obviously linger toward the organisation for the foreseeable future.

Claimants of sexual abuse in the criminal justice system are well aware that proving their allegations in court may be challenging, especially when there is little to no physical evidence and the alleged crimes took place in secret. After Watson’s criminal case was over, a large number of NFL organisations were ready to move on as if his accusers hadn’t spoken with alarming consistency about what happened to them during their time in prison.

Given that Watson’s long-time franchise, the Houston Texans, is expected to deal away its star quarterback after his criminal case is finished, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints have all shown interest in signing him as a free agent, along with the Cleveland Browns.

These clubs were willing to debate the possibility of sacrificing their ethics in exchange for the opportunity to construct a winning squad with Watson. There was nothing they could do about it; they couldn’t wait to see what would happen in the civil proceedings. They were uninterested in victims and their testimonies.

Yes, Cleveland was successful in capturing him. For those who are supporters, employees, or owners of a club that pursued Watson, keep in mind the ancient adage: “Sometimes the finest prayers are those that go unanswered.” This is now applicable to you.

Cleveland, on the other hand, will be a different storey. Watson first turned down a five-year, $230 million contract from the Browns, but the organisation wooed him with a package that looked designed to give him a veneer of respectability: five years, $230 million, with every dollar guaranteed.

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, could have taken a look at all of the publicly known claims and concluded that enough was enough. He could have sent a strong message by placing Watson on administrative leave for breaking the National Football League’s conduct standard — regardless of the outcome of the legal battle.

The National Football League permitted Antonio Brown to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite the fact that he was the subject of sexual harassment allegations and a lawsuit accusing him of rape. In the midst of allegations of harassment against one of the NFL’s founding teams, the Washington Commanders, which include allegations against the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, the league remains defiant and does not intervene in the matter. There are a plethora of tales like this. By now, they have become a part of the National Football League’s fabric.

Greene provided me with frightening data about the prevalence of sexual assault in the United States, as well as how difficult it is for women to get justice via the legal system. The great majority of sexual assault instances, out of every 1,000 recorded, will go undetected. Only 25 criminals will be imprisoned out of the 50 cases that result in an arrest.

Regarding sexual assault, we live in a world where males are often given second chances, but women are left with unfathomable suffering that society fails to recognise or perceive.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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