NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday explained the league’s decision to pursue a one-year suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, weighing in on the findings of an independent investigation into the integrity of the game violations committed by the Dolphins.
Goodell told reporters that the evidence showed Watson committed multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct guidelines.
“We’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said after Tuesday’s Special League Meeting in Minneapolis, which was called to allow a vote on the sale of the Broncos. “[Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson] was very clear on the evidence, if we were to enforce the evidence. That there were several violations here, and they were gross, and there was predatory behavior. There are things that we always felt were important for us to address in a way that is responsible.”
In issuing a six-game suspension for Watson on August 1, Robinson wrote that Watson engaged in “sexual assault; conduct that poses a real danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or endangers the integrity of NFL.” However, Robinson noted that she was “bound by standards of fairness and consistent treatment among similarly situated players” in her decision to impose a six-game suspension despite the NFL seeking a yearlong ban.
The NFL officially appealed Watson’s suspension on August 3, and Goodell later appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to rule on the appeal. Goodell told reporters that the right to appeal the decision is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s part of the CBA that two parties are right,” Goodell said. “Certainly either party could challenge and appeal that, and that was something we felt was our right to do, as well as the NFLPA. So we decided that was the right thing to do.”
Goodell added that he has no timeline for a decision by Harvey.
Goodell was also asked about his reaction to the investigation into the Dolphins organization. The NFL announced on August 2 that the team will forfeit its 2023 first-round pick and its 2024 third-round pick, and that team owner Stephen Ross has been suspended through October 17.
“The integrity of the game is critically important,” Goodell said Tuesday. “I think the finding was very clear about tampering. Although tanking obviously didn’t happen here, I think we all have to understand that our words and our actions have implications, can be interpreted and we have to be careful.”
In addition, Goodell told reporters he had no additional information about Commanders owner Daniel Snyder’s virtual testimony before Congress on July 28 as part of the House investigation into the Washington franchise’s workplace culture.
“We weren’t a party to it. We didn’t participate in any way,” Goodell said. “So I don’t have any other information that you don’t have about that context. As far as his status, as we all know, there is an ongoing congressional investigation as well as our investigation into these issues. As we come to a resolution that Dan and I will discuss where he attends.”