BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will serve an 11-game unpaid suspension following sexual assault accusations made by women in Texas in 2020 and 2021.
According to Forbes and ESPN, Watson, 26, will also have to pay a $5 million fine, the largest player fine in NFL history. He will also have to undergo professional evaluations and treatments by behavioral experts.
The fine will be used to create a fund for nonprofit organizations that would “educate young people on healthy relationships, promote education and prevention of sexual misconduct and assault, support survivors, and related causes.” The NFL and the Cleveland Browns will contribute $1 million, according to ESPN.
Watson released a statement through the Browns after the decision apologizing for his behavior:
“I’m grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization. I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my teammates however possible while I’m away from the team.”
According to The Associated Press, Watson may return for the Browns’ game on Dec. 4 in Houston.
When asked later if he thought the settlement was fair, Watson said, “I’m going to keep my opinion to myself,” according to AP.
Watson was suspended for six games on Aug. 1 by Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge jointly appointed to act as an independent disciplinary officer. After reviewing an investigation into his actions, she found the 26-year-old Watson had violated the league’s personal conduct policy and called his behavior “egregious” and “predatory.”
In June, Watson had settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by the women alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage therapy appointments when he played for the Houston Texans.
Allegations surfaced in 2021 that he acted inappropriately with the women during massage therapy sessions he scheduled via social media, according to AP.
Watson has denied all wrongdoing, insisting that any sexual activity with three of the women was consensual. He insisted his goal was to clear his name before agreeing to confidential financial settlements with 20 of the women on June 21.
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