I should start with the usual caveats. I am a school teacher. To be more specific, I am a high school special education teacher. I spend most of my day supporting struggling students. So, my knowledge of the law, collective bargaining, and due process is about as limited as anyone else around here. Deshaun Watson and his representatives have settled all but one of his civil cases. The Houston Texans settled all 30 of the cases against them. We have no idea what the terms were for the settlements. You’d have to believe that was by design.
What we all know is that there is always a gap between what actually happened — and what legal authorities, the court of public opinion, the women involved, and the powers that be in the NFL believe happened. That gap may be tiny or it may be huge depending on which group you are talking about.
Is the process the right process?
That brings us to two questions moving forward. The first question is whether the new discipline process in the NFL is capable of producing results that are fair to all of the parties involved. This is obviously an open question. The league left the punishments for these kinds of offenses purposely vague. I suspect that was because they didn’t want to get tied down to a penalty that wouldn’t make sense for any particular situation.
I think it is a better process than having the commissioner just levy a penalty and then hear the appeal himself. That being said, it is clear that disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson felt constricted by past precedents in her initial ruling. The full appeal never made it to the second round because both parties wanted this situation behind them. Is the 11 game penalty enough? Did the fact that the 12th game was against the Texans affect the outcome of the negotiations?
We may never know the answers for sure. In a battle between money and marketing, and what is fair and equitable we know where the winning side will be. The NFL is a business first and foremost. Naturally this is where we start spilling into the second question. As fans, we know that none of us would be able to do what Watson did. We know that a simple suspension would not be our fate. Whatever our costs, we know there would be more.
What exactly is a fair outcome?
This is when we get down to brass tacks. We start comparing Watson to guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Ben Roethlisberger, and Ray Rice. None of those situations were the same and each alleged victim or victims has a different story. How does one even begin to compare the horrors of what happened to one victim and compare that with the horrors experienced by the victims in these cases? I have no way to answer that on any level.
Moreover, there has to be a road to redemption, but that road is going to be longer for some than it will be for others. There will have to be milestones on that road that indicate that real progress has been made. Watson made an apology of sorts. He said he was getting counseling. That’s a start, but it cannot be the end of it. More will need to be done.
Ultimately, that is what life is all about. Each of us screws up in some small way or some tremendous way. When we do, we have to make amends. I’m just not sure that 11 games and $5 million nearly comes close to repaying that debt in Watson’s case. I’m not sure anything could. Some debts are just too large to completely repay. As Texans fans, we feel betrayed for a whole other host of reasons. He was our guy. He was someone we could believe in. He was someone we could hope would lead us where we wanted to go. All of that is gone. Yet, this one is really not ours to forgive. We weren’t the offended parties or the victims. We weren’t the ones he needs to atone for. Those will be the people who get decide if and when Watson has completed that road to redemption.