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Watson suspended 6 games after probe into sexual assault, misconduct complaints

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Warning: Story contains graphic content

NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson imposed a six-game suspension Monday on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson following numerous allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, the league announced Monday.

The NFL and NFLPA have three days to appeal the decision, though the union said Sunday it would accept Robinson's ruling. The league stated Monday it will review Robinson's imposition and determine the next steps. Robinson, the jointly appointed officer who previously served as a Delaware district court judge, presided over Watson's disciplinary hearing from June 28-30. She ruled that Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy, allowing the league to enforce a suspension.

Watson's ruling included no additional fine for the quarterback. Robinson also stated in her conclusion that she believes it's appropriate that Watson limit his massage therapy to team-directed sessions and team-approved massage therapists for the remainder of his career. He's also to have no "adverse involvement with law enforcement" and must not violate the league's personal conduct policy again in the future, Robinson adds.

The NFL spent over a year probing 24 lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints that accused Watson of lewd and coercive behavior while receiving massages from women.

Watson agreed to settle 20 of the 24 lawsuits in June. He settled three of the remaining four lawsuits shortly before Robinson announced her disciplinary decision, according to ESPN's John Barr.

Grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal charges in March. The incidents cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021. The first lawsuit was filed March 16, 2021.

The Browns acquired Watson from the Houston Texans in March knowing he could face significant NFL discipline. Cleveland traded six draft picks, including three first-round selections, to get him, and immediately signed him to a new five-year contract worth a record $230 million fully guaranteed.

"Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L. Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision," said Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam in a statement.

"We respect Judge Robinson's decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process. We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many, and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him."

Many of the women who filed lawsuits or criminal complaints said Watson inappropriately touched them with his penis during massage sessions and coercively attempted to get them to touch him in a sexual manner. Two women said Watson forced them to perform oral sex, and one of the two said Watson grabbed her buttocks and vagina.

Watson maintained his innocence as the allegations mounted. His lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said Watson engaged in sexual activity with some of the complainants but that it was consensual.

Watson, 26, requested a trade from the Texans in January 2021 before any of the allegations surfaced. He was eligible to play last season while the NFL monitored developments in the civil and criminal complaints, but was a healthy scratch for all 17 games.

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