Inconsistent NFL Punishment Policies

            The NFL and the NFL Players Association reached a settlement in the Deshaun Watson disciplinary matter in the middle of August. It is hard to believe anyone would not know who Deshaun Watson is after U.S. District Court Judge Sue L. Robinson ruled that the quarterback should be suspended for a whopping six games in 2022. After 24 civil lawsuits were filed against Watson alleging sexual assault. The New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas reported that Watson booked massage therapy sessions with at least 66 women over the span of 17 months. [1] The report also finds that a Houston-based spa and the Texans “enabled” his massage habit and that the franchise provided facilities and nondisclosure agreements for his sessions. [2] It also found that the quarterback’s lawyer and the prosecutors at the district attorney’s office on the criminal cases had extensive contact leading up to the two grand juries. [3] After the suspension was announced, there was a nation-wide outrage. Some commentators were supportive of Deshaun Watson, but most were opposed as the obscure sentencing disparities of the NFL were brought to light. 

            One of the players most discussed in light of this was Calvin Ridley. Calvin Ridley was the star wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Ridley faced a year-long suspension after betting on games while he was on the non-football injury list and not actively playing in the games he chose to place bets on. Consequently, Ridley was not placing bets on outcomes his performance could affect. Only three months prior to the placing of the bets, the NFL was partnered with four gambling houses and months earlier, sportsbook partnerships with Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel were made. Calvin Ridley was forced to forfeit his earnings for the next season, more than $11 million dollars. [4]

            Calvin Ridley’s punishment for a nonviolent violation compared to the NFL’s punishment protocol for players who have been involved in domestic violence and more is astonishing. To name, Ray Rice was caught on video beating his fiancé until she was unconscious and was only suspended for two games.  Adrian Peterson faced felony child abuse charges and was suspended six games, Greg Hardy beat his girlfriend and was initially suspended 10 games, but which was reduced to four, Ezekiel Elliot hit women and was suspended 6 games. [5] Is the NFL making a statement that the safety of women is not nearly as important and severe as gambling? 

On Aug. 18, 2022, the NFL and the NFLPA finalized a settlement agreement in Watson’s disciplinary process—an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine for Deshaun Watson. Additionally, he will “undergo a professional evaluation by behavioral experts and will follow their treatment program,” and his reinstatement reportedly has a contingency aspect. The NFL, Browns owners and Watson released statements on the matter, and the quarterback penned a broad apology “for any pain this situation has caused” and takes “accountability for the decisions I made.” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam expressed that he feels the quarterback “deserves a second chance,” and in a separate press conference, Watson maintained his innocence.  [6] It is time for the National Football League to change its priorities –the safety of women has been continuously undervalued relative to gambling offenses. Why?


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