Now that the NFL has appealed the Deshaun Watson decision to the NFL, what happens next?
The Personal Conduct Policy and the relevant provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement lay out the next steps.
Here’e the relevant language of the Personal Conduct Policy: “Such appeals will be: (i) processed on an expedited basis; (ii) limited to consideration of the terms of discipline imposed; and (iii) based upon a review of the existing record without reference to evidence or testimony not previously considered. No additional evidence or testimony shall be presented to or accepted by the Commissioner or his designee. Any factual findings and evidentiary determinations of the Disciplinary Officer will be binding to the parties on appeal, and the decision of the Commissioner or his designee, which may overturn, reduce, modify or increase the discipline previously issued, will be final and binding on all parties.”
Because there’s no new evidence, there’s no reason for a new hearing. Neither the Personal Conduct Policy nor the CBA call for a hearing on appeal. Instead, it’s simply a matter of both sides submitting their paperwork to Commissioner Roger Goodell or whoever he designates to reach the same decision he would reach.
In this specific case, the factual findings and evidentiary determinations made by Judge Sue L. Robinson give the Commissioner or his designee all the ammunition needed to replace her six-game suspension with something more. She found that Watson violated three different provisions of the policy as to four different people. Nothing about her decision to suspend Watson six games limits the ability of Goodell or his designee to implement a much longer suspension.
That’s the most important thing to remember. Judge Robinson determined the facts. And the facts that she determined are exactly what the NFL wanted them to be. Although the NFL didn’t like her decision as to the length of a suspension, the NFL has the ability under the policy to appeal the decision to the NFL, and to replace her six-game suspension with whatever the NFL would prefer it otherwise be.