Sports | June 16, 2022 1:31 pm

Report: NFLPA May Use Robert Kraft’s Non-Punishment to Defend Deshaun Watson

The union is reportedly bracing for the NFL to hand down an "unprecedented" judgement on the Browns quarterback

Quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass at camp while wearing an orange jersey and an orange beanie
Deshaun Watson (above) and Robert Kraft may soon be linked by the NFLPA.
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty

Bracing for the NFL to hand down an “unprecedented” punishment to Deshaun Watson for his alleged behavior toward more than 20 women he hired to massage him, the NFL Players Association is planning an “aggressive defense” that could bring New England owner Robert Kraft’s alleged behavior at a Florida massage parlor back into focus, according to ProFootballTalk.

The defense for Watson, who has not been charged criminally for his alleged sexual misconduct but is facing 24 civil lawsuits, would apparently invoke Kraft — per “a source with knowledge of the intended strategy” — because the Patriots owner received no punishment from the league despite allegedly paying for a massage that became a sexual encounter at a Florida spa in 2019. Unlike Watson, Kraft was charged with a crime but his solicitation charge was dismissed because a court ruled the video surveillance Florida law enforcement used violated the rights of the individuals who were recorded in secret at the spa.

If Watson, who met at least 66 women for massages over a 17-month period per The New York Times, is disciplined harshly by the league, his defenders are preparing to argue that the punishment will not be in line with the non-penalty Kraft received. This line from the league’s Personal Conduct Policy will reportedly be cited: “Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.”

Essentially, the argument wouldn’t have anything to do with Watson’s innocence, but instead focus on whether the discipline of the Browns quarterback is justified when viewed alongside the non-punishment imposed on Kraft. Along with Kraft, the NFLPA’s defense of Watson also plans to bring up the league’s handling of related situations involving Washington owner Daniel Snyder and Dallas owner Jerry Jones. And maybe it’ll work.

“If the league means what it says when it says that owners are held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline for violations of the Personal Conduct Policy, the manner in which Snyder, Kraft, and Jones were handled by the league becomes directly relevant to the manner in which Watson is handled, too,” per PFT.

It’s an interesting argument and it may even hold some water, but it ignores one point, at least with regard to Kraft: consent.

At no point during the investigation into Kraft allegedly paying for a sexual massage was it ever reported that the woman was involved against her will. What Kraft may have paid for was illegal, but it was consensual. The same cannot be said in Watson’s case as the women who are taking him to court allege there was a glaring lack of consent, even if money was involved.

For what it is worth given the mountain of accusations made against him, Watson has steadfastly maintained that he is innocent and said he has no regrets about any of his actions. Speaking this week, he did admit he does regret the impact of the allegations.

“I do understand that I do have regrets as far as the impact that [it’s had] on the community and people outside of just myself,” Watson said. “And that includes my family. That includes this organization. That includes my teammates in this locker room that have to answer to these questions. That includes the fan base of the Cleveland Browns. That includes males, females, everyone across the world. That’s one thing I do regret is the impact that it’s triggered on so many people. It’s tough to have to deal with.”