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Who did the NFL appoint to oversee the Deshaun Watson appeal hearing?

Will Deshaun Watson’s punishment be increased? Are we in for a showdown in federal court? Now that the NFL has picked its man, maybe we’ll get some answers.

BEREA, OH - JULY 27: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during Cleveland Browns training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on July 27, 2022 in Berea, Ohio.   Nick Cammett/Getty Images/AFP
Nick CammettAFP

With a deadline of Friday afternoon, for a response from Deshuan Watson and the NFLPA to the NFL’s appeal of the player’s suspension, the league has now officially announced who it appointed to oversee the hearing.

NFL appoints New Jersey AG, Peter C. Harvey for Deshaun Watson appeal hearing

Following yesterday’s reports, we now understand that the NFL has appealed former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson’s disciplinary ruling against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. This brings us today, Thursday 4th of August when reports now confirm that the league has appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to oversee the hearing. As has been documented, Robinson’s investigation of Watson - facing allegations of 24 women on the grounds sexual assault and misconduct - ended with a recommendation that he be suspended for six games. As things stand, Harvey will now be responsible for determining whether or not Watson faces even more severe punishment. As we know, the NFL is seeking a minimum of one year’s suspension.

Who is Attorney General Peter C. Harvey?

In accordance with the league’s CBA, commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to hear the appeal himself, however, with the appointment of Harvey, he has successfully taken the burden off of his office, thereby reducing the risk of an claims of impartiality. That being said, Harvey is no stranger to NFL cases as he currently serves as a consultant to the NFL’s Diversity Advisory Committee - an organization created to improve racial and gender diversity NFL’s hiring practices. Incidentally, Harvey was previously appointed by Goddell to oversee Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, of a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence in 2017. How did it all end? Harvey upheld the ban.

Today, Harvey is a partner at the Paterson Belknap firm in New York. The attorney has also had a stint as a federal prosecutor, where he handled both civil and criminal cases which involved sexual assault. Details aside, the key question will be whether or not Harvey - in keeping with the CBA - finds that Watson’s suspension, “should be modified to include a professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine, and a longer suspension.”

Is the NFL’s own ambiguity to blame for Watson’s ‘escape?’

If you’re still unsure as to how we got here, it’s simple: After their own investigation of Watson, the NFL has always maintained that they wanted a more severe punishment for the Browns QB. Watson, is of course facing some 24 civil lawsuits against him from women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. To date he has settled in all but one of those cases. Interestingly, Robison disclosed that the NFL’s less than clear regulations where the monitoring of players’ personal conduct is concerned, factored into her decision. Though the league’s case was built around the “unprecedented,” nature and quantity of Watson’s abuse of a large number of massage therapists, could it be that its own lax standards where players’ behavior is concerned, is the stumbling block?

What’s happens next with Deshaun Watson

When all is said and done, here’s the reality: Should Harvey increase Watson’s suspension, it’s all but certain that the quarterback - with the NFLPA’s backing - will sue the NFL. After all, the association already made it clear that if the league appealed, that’s what they’d do in response. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s happened before. The aforementioned Ezekiel Elliot did in 2017 and so did the GOAT himself, Tom Brady in 2015 for his part in “Deflategate.” Ultimately, if even such a scenario were to play out it will likely go the way as they have all gone before, which is to say that at best the NFLPA will delay Harvey’s verdict rather than overturning it.


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