Deshaun Watson’s Lawyer Downplays Link to Trevor Bauer’s MLB Suspension

Bauer’s arbitration hearing over his two-year suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy is set for this week

Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers returns to the dugout in 2021
Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers returns to the dugout in 2021.
Meg Oliphant/Getty

With Trevor Bauer’s arbitration hearing regarding his two-year suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy set for this week, many are curious to see whether arbitrator Martin Scheinman will reduce or possibly even overturn the unprecedented ban handed down by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

Among those interested in the proceedings should be Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (and his currently second-string backup Baker Mayfield), as he could be looking at an equivalent ban from the NFL under the league’s personal conduct policy after having more than 20 allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.

Like Bauer, Watson has not been charged criminally and has denied the allegations made against him. But, like Bauer, Watson could still be suspended by the NFL following an internal league investigation into the charges. That being the case, the connection between the two situations seems fairly clear. Not to Watson’s lawyer Rusty Hardin.

Speaking to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Hardin said he does not think the outcome of Bauer’s appeal of his suspension should have any impact on what the NFL ultimately does or does not do with Watson. “I’m going to try to be an optimist and say it will have no effect at all,’’ he said. “Because it has no logical connection.”

It will be interesting to see if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell feels the same way as the decision about what sort of penalty, if any, Watson receives ultimately rests with him. If Bauer’s lengthy suspension is upheld, Goodell, who was criticized for going too soft on former Baltimore running back Ray Rice for domestic violence in 2014, might be incentivized to be equally harsh with his discipline of Watson in order to keep pace in the court of public opinion. Watson can always appeal Goodell’s decision and hope to have his penalty, whatever it is, reduced. Given that Watson has that option, Goodell could be even more emboldened to err on the side of being harsh.

“Even though the cases are different and the allegations are different and the sports are different, the two-year suspension of Bauer sets a new bar. Whatever the NFL does to Watson necessarily will be judged in comparison to that standard,” according to ProFootballTalk. “It’s not about right or wrong. It’s not about fairness or equity. It’s not about law or legalities. It’s about the reaction that the league anticipates from possibly being too lenient to possibly being too strict. And, yes, the Bauer suspension becomes an important factor in figuring out the right punishment for Watson.”

Whether Hardin wants to acknowledge it or not.

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