CLEVELAND — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has selected former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension.
Watson was suspended this week by independent disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who concluded he violated the league’s personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women in Texas.
The league, which had been pushing for an indefinite suspension of Watson, wanted more disciplinary action and appealed Robinson’s ruling on Wednesday.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the appeal restored Goodell’s power to sanction, but chose Harvey, a partner at a New York law firm, to hear the appeal.
Noting his qualifications, the league said Harvey “has extensive experience in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and has advised the NFL and other professional leagues on the development and implementation of policies in the workplace.” workplace, including the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.”
Harvey has also served as Goodell’s appointee in other arbitrations and is a member of the league’s Diversity Advisory Committee, created to improve racial and gender diversity throughout the NFL.
Goodell chose an appointee because he wanted an expert in the field who could focus solely on this matter, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. Goodell is busy with Hall of Fame weekend and the next league meeting on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter.
There is no timetable for when Harvey will hear the appeal. Under the league’s personal conduct policy, he should be processed on an expedited basis.
Due in part to public outcry that the suspension was too light, the league has appealed Robinson’s decision and wants Watson to be disciplined further.
“The NFL’s appeal addresses whether, based on Judge Robinson’s findings, the discipline should be modified to include professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine, and a longer suspension,” the league said in a statement. . .
“Under the collective bargaining agreement, Mr. Harvey’s written decision “will constitute the full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding on the players, the clubs and the parties” to the CBA.”
In her 16-page ruling, Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, called Watson’s behavior “appalling” and “predatory.” The women alleged that he sexually assaulted or harassed them during massage therapy sessions when the quarterback was playing for the Houston Texans.
The former federal judge concluded that Watson violated league policy by engaging in unwanted sexual contact with another person, endangering the safety and well-being of another person, and undermining the integrity of the league.
However, in imposing the six-game suspension, Robinson pointed to flaws in the league’s guidelines for player misconduct, which limited his authority to penalize him. Robinson stipulated in his punishment that Watson must use only team-approved massage therapists for the duration of his career.
AP reporter Rob Maaddi contributed.