The National Football League has Cleveland Browns quarterback suspended Deshaun Watson for 11 games and fined him $5 million in a settlement, amid accusations of sexual misconduct and assault against him from two dozen women.
A disciplinary officer initially decided to suspend him for six games, but the NFL later appealed, with league commissioner Roger Goodell saying he was looking to have Watson suspended. for at least a year.
The updated decision was made Thursday as the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the union representing players, reached a mutual agreement on Watson’s punishment.
So what is the NFL’s policy on suspensions and how did it come to this decision?
What does the Personal Conduct Policy say?
The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy states that employees must not engage in “conduct detrimental to the integrity and public confidence in” the NFL, or behavior that is “unlawful, violent, dangerous or irresponsible” according to a 2018 version of the policy.
It applies to team owners, coaches, players and other team employees, game officials, and employees of NFL Films, the NFL Network, or any other NFL business.
Employees do not need to be convicted of a crime or questioned by law enforcement to be punished by the league.
Some of the prohibited behaviors include:
A disciplinary officer collects evidence for a hearing
A Disciplinary Officer is appointed jointly by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the union representing the players.
A hearing ensues, during which the officer gathers evidence and determines what action, if any, to take. The NFL has 10 days before the hearing to notify the officer, the player and the players’ association of any recommended punishment, according to the collective agreement 2020 between the NFL and the players’ union.
The league is responsible for establishing a burden of proof that the player violated the personal conduct policy, as well as publishing any mitigating factors, such as the player accepting responsibility, receiving clinical assistance, and paying fines.
While the investigation is ongoing, the player charged with an infraction may continue to play or be placed on the commissioner’s exemption list, which operates like paid time off.
Once the officer makes a decision, it is final unless the league or union decides to appeal. Goodell then has the final say, or may appoint a third party to make a final decision.
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