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Opinion: Deshaun Watson shouldn't be traded. He should be declared ineligible to play

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Trade talk has intensified in the ignominious life of Deshaun Watson, with the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers both reportedly interested in bringing the alleged sexual assaulter into their communities to toss a football, represent their towns and be a standard bearer for all the girls and boys and families who cheer for those NFL teams.

Yippee.

Throw in the 650,000 internal league and team emails still shrouded in secrecy, hiding who knows how many more racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes and transphobes beyond Jon Gruden, and the NFL really is having a heck of a month.

After taking some significant steps following the 2014 Ray Rice domestic violence scandal, the NFL seems to be heading backward — backward to a time many team owners and other executives must long for, a time when the Watsons and Grudens of the world could not only get their way (in allegedly different ways of course), but thrive and be celebrated for it.

How else do we interpret the fact that as of right now, Watson is still NFL trade bait? How is it possible that a man facing 22 civil lawsuits stemming from sexual misconduct or sexual assault allegations from 23 women is being discussed as if he were any other talented quarterback who is available as the trade deadline approaches?

Deshaun Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits stemming from sexual misconduct or sexual assault allegations from 23 women.
Deshaun Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits stemming from sexual misconduct or sexual assault allegations from 23 women.

What an embarrassment this is for the NFL. The Houston Texans gave the league time to figure out what action to take against Watson when they made it clear they would not consider playing him this season after Watson demanded a trade in January. In each game this season, the Texans have kept Watson on the inactive list.

But that solution wasn’t going to last forever, and now here we are, with experts on air, online and in front offices having the utterly unseemly conversations about which team he might go to, and what the Texans want in return.

WHAT WE KNOW: Where things stand with Watson as trade deadline looms

POWER RANKINGS: No. 1 Cardinals, NFC teams rule top five as new AFC challengers emerge

To discuss Watson solely as a football player is to entirely miss the past five years or so of conversations in this country about how we treat victims of alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault, how we listen to them, how we believe them, how we honor them.

Can you imagine a row of Watson’s accusers sitting in front of a Senate hearing telling their stories the way Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and their teammates did last month? And then the NFL allowing him to be traded to, say, Miami, and, “Here we go, first and 10 for the Dolphins at the 25-yard line … Watson back to throw …”

How can any human being in the NFL allow that to happen? Stash Watson somewhere — the commissioner’s exempt list is the likely spot, with its broad “unusual circumstances” phrase — and get him out of any sports conversations until his vast legal troubles have run their course.

If he’s innocent, allow him back, obviously. If he’s not, tell him he is never welcome in the NFL again.

MLB figured out a way to get rid of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, who is accused of sexual assault, by placing him on administrative leave for the rest of the season. That was a 21st century solution to a problem that would have been laughed off a generation ago.

The NFL must do the same. This isn’t the 1950s, despite what those emails must say. The most powerful and important sports league in the nation must start acting like it’s living in these times. Listen to those accusers. Declare Watson ineligible for the season. Do it now.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson shouldn't be traded. He should be ineligible to play

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