Deshaun Watson suspended: Roger Goodell names ex-NJ AG Peter C. Harvey to hear NFL appeal

A day after the NFL announced it would appeal the disciplinary recommendation of former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the league has named former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to oversee the hearing because CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones Report. Robinson’s investigation into Watson was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by 24 women in the offseason, ultimately recommending a six-game suspension. Now it’s up to Harvey to decide whether Watson should face a harsher penalty, with the NFL reportedly seeking at least an entire season ban.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to hear appeals in person, but by appointing Harvey, he has officially moved the next stage of the process outside of his office. However, Harvey has previously worked with the NFL and currently serves as an advisory member of the league’s Diversity Advisory Council, which seeks to improve racial and gender diversity in the NFL’s recruiting practices. He was previously appointed by Goodell to hear an appeal from the Cowboys’ six-game suspension in 2017 for alleged domestic violence. Harvey maintained the aforementioned suspension, which was later delayed but served in full.

Now a partner at Paterson Belknap in New York, Harvey has also served as a federal prosecutor in civil and criminal cases involving sexual assault. The league said Thursday that his ruling in Watson’s deliberations “will constitute the full, final and complete disposition of the dispute” under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Specifically, he will be responsible for determining whether Robinson’s recommendations “should be revised to include professional evaluation and treatment as determined by a medical expert, appropriate fines and a longer suspension”.

Since investigating Watson, the NFL has sought harsh punishment for the former Texans QB, who has faced no criminal charges and, in all but one of the 24 civil lawsuits filed against him this offseason, All other lawsuits have been settled. Robinson acknowledged in this week’s ruling that the league is advocating an indefinite ban on the QB because of the “unprecedented” severity of his alleged serial abuse involving dozens of private massage therapists. She herself considered Watson’s behavior “appalling,” but suggested she recommended only a six-game suspension due to the NFL’s ambiguous standards for regulating individual conduct.

Even if Harvey extends Watson’s suspension, the QB could later sue the NFL through the NFL Players Association and have the ban temporarily suspended, as Elliott did in 2017 and Tom Brady in 2015 because he Allegedly played a role in the Patriots’ “deflate valve” test. But the NFLPA’s lawsuit ultimately turned out to delay rather than eliminate the NFL-issued suspension, meaning Harvey’s ruling could, in fact, sooner or later constitute a final decision on Watson’s availability for the 2022 season and beyond.

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