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After three days of proceedings, Deshaun Watson’s hearing before disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson has concluded. But don’t expect a speedy ruling on whether the Cleveland Browns quarterback will receive punishment after being sued by 24 women who accused him of sexual misconduct, including 20 who settled out of court with him recently.
Here’s a breakdown of what has taken place over the course of the last three days, what’s next and when Robinson -- a retired federal judge appointed and jointly compensated by the NFL and NFL Players Association -- could inform Watson and the NFL of her decision.
Arguments from the hearing
It’s believed that the NFL wants to send a strong message that the mistreatment of women and sexual misconduct will not be tolerated. The league has a poor track record when it comes to its response to domestic violence and sexual misconduct. But current leadership wants to show they take this very seriously. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, entering the hearings, the NFL issued its recommendation that Watson should serve an indefinite suspension that wouldn’t allow him to apply for reinstatement until after a year. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Watson and his representatives and those of the NFLPA argued that the quarterback should not serve a suspension, a person with knowledge of the hearing told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly. Watson already missed all of last year while at odds with the Houston Texans, who couldn’t find a trade partner because of uncertainty of the then-ongoing criminal investigation. (Watson did get paid despite not playing.)
The NFLPA also argued that the NFL is guilty of a double standard when it comes to discipline, because at the same time it requested an indefinite suspension for Watson, the league has displayed leniency toward owners accused of misconduct, even though the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players states that team owners should be held to a higher standard.
Robinson requested briefs the week of July 11. She cautioned that she will take a meticulous approach to reviewing the evidence and arguments presented, and that her decision will likely take some time, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly.
The attorneys of both sides will forward Robinson their briefs from the hearings. She will review them, her own notes, all evidence and eventually make her decision. It could take seven to 10 days for Robinson to announce her decision.
Once Robinson makes her ruling, we’ll see if both sides accept the decision or appeal. That process would involve NFL commissioner Roger Goodell either hearing the arguments for appeal and making a decision, or appointing someone else to handle this task.
It’s always possible Robinson could advise both sides that neither will like her decision and thus, it would be in their best interest to reach a settlement.
The NFL can't appeal if Robinson determines Watson should face no punishment at all.
The Browns kick off training camp in full on July 26. It’s still possible all of this is resolved before then, so Watson and his new team know how to proceed entering the 2022 season.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson's discipline hearing is over. What's next?