CLEVELAND, Ohio — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t hear the NFL’s appeal of Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension, a source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
The NFL filed its written appeal of the suspension on Wednesday, and the NFL Players Association has until Friday to respond.
According to the league’s personal conduct policy, Goodell or a designee can hear the appeal, and their ruling will be final. Apparently, Goodell has decided to appoint someone else to hear one of the most controversial and high-profile appeals in the history of the NFL.
Florio speculated that perhaps Goodell might appoint Mary Jo White, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state and current director of the Hoover Institute at Stanford who recently became part of the Denver Broncos ownership group.
A lifelong Browns fan, Rice recently weighed in on Watson’s situation.
“I’m someone who believes you keep an open mind until all of the facts are evident,” she said during a press conference at Firestone Country Club in Akron in June, where she received the Ambassador of Golf Award. “I know the league is doing an investigation, the Browns have done an investigation. I will just wait to see what the outcome is. These are serious matters. I think every woman feels that these are serious matters, but hopefully people will get to the bottom of it and we’ll see where we are in a couple of months.”
White has handled several high-profile investigations, including the most recent one into Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, and those of Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder and former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.
White or someone else choosing Goodell’s will hear the appeal, in which the NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension of at least a year with a chance to apply for reinstatement, a substantial fine, and treatment for what it’s deemed is a pattern of disturbing behavior .
The six game suspension was handed down Monday in a 16-page report by Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinsonwho called Watson’s behavior “predatory” and “egregious.”
She wrote that Watson’s “pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”
She limited the suspension to six games, however, because of precedents in the NFL for players involved in non-violent sexual misconduct, and because of no prior warning that the severity of sanctions had significantly increased.
“While it may be entirely appropriate to more severely discipline players for non-violent sexual conduct, I do not believe it is appropriate to do so without notice of the extraordinary change in this position portends for the NFL and its players,” she wrote.
According to Article 46 of the CBA, “the Commissioner or his designee will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), club(s) and the parties to this Agreement.”
According to the Personal Conduct Policy, “the appeal will be: (i) processed on an expedited basis; (ii) limited to consideration of the terms of discipline imposed; and (iii) based upon a review of the existing record without reference to evidence or testimony not previously considered. No additional evidence or testimony shall be presented to or accepted by the Commissioner or his designee. Any factual findings and evidentiary determinations of the Disciplinary Officer will be binding to the parties on appeal, and the decision of the Commissioner or his designee, which may overturn, reduce, modify or increase the discipline previously issued, will be final and binding on all parties.”
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