It is unacceptable, insulting, and dangerous—but not surprising—that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will face merely a 6-game suspension—with no fines—following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by more than two dozen women.
The NFL and the multi-billion-dollar sports industry have a vested interest in enabling sexual misconduct, assault, and violence. They even wrote it into Deshaun Watson’s $230 million contract!
The Browns knew that their star recruit would be suspended for at least part of this year’s season because of his record of sex offenses, and so they restructured his contract to make the majority of his $46 million first-year payout a “signing bonus,” not tied to him playing actual games.
Meanwhile, Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder defies Congress and fights legal battles in six states to keep the team’s history of workplace harassment against women and minorities under wraps. Player after player enjoys hugely profitable careers despite being charged or arrested for violence against women.
The NFL has had a violence against women problem for years—and everyone knows it. NOW was outspoken over the mishandling of the 2014 domestic violence case against Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has failed since then to find a consistent, independent, and trustworthy means of addressing the scourge of violence against women—and bringing abusers to justice.
Deshaun Watson must not be allowed to profit from his horrific behavior, and the NFL must change its business model that allows, enables, and hides sexual misconduct into one that respects women and holds abusers accountable.
Shame on the Cleveland Browns for rewarding Deshaun Watson and shame on the NFL for perpetuating a system where money talks, and women aren’t heard.
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The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the nation’s leading membership-based advocacy group dedicated to defending women’s rights, advancing equality and combating injustice in all aspects of social, political and economic life. Through educating, mobilizing, and convening a vast network of grassroots activists across the country, NOW advocates for national, state and local policies that promote an anti-racist and intersectional feminist agenda. Since its founding in 1966, NOW has been on the frontlines of nearly every major advancement for women’s rights and continues to champion progressive values today. More about NOW’s efforts and resources is available at NOW.org.