Every time the NFL has a chance to stand for women, it fails. Spectacularly.
The laughably light six-game suspension for Deshaun Watson might not have been issued by Roger Goodell, and the commissioner can still override it. But Sue L. Robinson’s decision issued Monday morning was based, in part, on the bare minimum the NFL did to make the case Watson was deserving of a career-curtailing suspension.
Five cases. That’s apparently the “volume” of evidence against Watson that the NFL presented to Robinson.
Two-dozen women filed civil lawsuits in which they detailed sexual misconduct by the quarterback who is now the face of the NFL thanks to his record-setting contract. A police detective said in a deposition for those civil cases that she believed Watson’s behavior was criminal.
The New York Times reported that, over a 17-month span, he had booked massage appointments with at least 66 women – a number and haphazardness that any elite athlete will tell you is not normal. The Houston Texans needed less time to decide to settle lawsuits with 30 women who accused the team of enabling Watson than they normally need to fall out of playoff contention.
All that, and somehow the NFL couldn’t make the case that Watson deserved more than six games. That works out to Watson sitting one quarter for every lawsuit filed against him. He’ll be back before the end of October, giving him plenty of time to take the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs and make everyone forget his misdeeds.
But tell me again how much the NFL cares about its female fan base. How the increase in the number of women on coaching staffs and in front offices shows how much respect there is for women and their experiences.
SUSPENSION: Browns QB Deshaun Watson suspended six games
MORE SUITS SETTLED: Browns QB Watson settles three more lawsuits
MORE: Thirty women settled with Houston Texans over claims related to Watson
When the NFL learned Calvin Ridley was gambling on games – when he wasn’t even playing, mind you – it brought the full weight of the league’s wrath upon him. Once one of the most talented receivers in the game, Ridley is now persona non grata, banished for an indeterminate length of time. When Tom Brady fibbed about his cell phones, the NFL went scorched earth on the seven-time Super Bowl champion.
The NFL can appeal Robinson’s decision, with Goodell having the ultimate say on the length of Watson’s suspension, and it will be telling how hard the league fights this. If at all. The NFL has a long track record of only standing up for women when it thinks there’s a buck to be made off them, and its actions in this case have done little to challenge that.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson’s ridiculous suspension shows NFL failing women again