NFL suspends Deshaun Watson for 11 games for sexual misconduct

Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns removes his helmet during Cleveland Browns training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on August 09, 2022 in Berea, Ohio.

Nick Cammet | Getty Images

The NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed to an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the league announced Thursday.

Watson, who also agreed to the settlement, initially received a six-game suspension for alleged misconduct, but, according to NBC SportsNFL commissioner Roger Goodell requested a season-long suspension and fine for Watson’s “predatory behavior”.

Watson, who was traded to Cleveland in March, has had 24 lawsuits brought against him by women alleging sexual harassment during massages. He settled 23 of those lawsuits. He previously signed a five-year, fully guaranteed, $230 million deal.

“I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take responsibility for the decisions I have made,” Watson said in a statement Thursday. “My goal going forward is to work towards becoming the best version of myself on and off the pitch and to support my teammates as much as possible while I’m away from the team.”

The decision ends the appeals process and the league says there will be no further legal steps. Watson can be reinstated on November 28. The NFL’s 17-game season begins September 8.

“Deshaun is committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL,” Goodell said. “This settlement requires adherence to a professional assessment and treatment plan, a significant fine and a more substantial suspension. We are grateful to Judge Robinson and Peter Harvey for their efforts in resolving these issues, which have laid the groundwork for reaching this conclusion.”

Watson’s $5 million fine will combine with $1 million each from the NFL and the Browns to create a fund to support the work of nonprofits that educate young people about healthy relationships, promote education and prevention of sexual misconduct and assault.

“Now that a decision on discipline has been made, we understand this is a real opportunity to create meaningful change,” read a statement from Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam. “Since Deshaun came into our building, he has been an outstanding member of our organization and has shown true dedication to working on himself on and off the pitch. We will continue to support him as he strives to earn the trust of our community.”

The NFLPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

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