Sports

Deshaun Watson’s absence from Commissioner’s Exempt List is starting to make sense

Why is this man still eligible to play football?

Why is this man still eligible to play football?
Image: Getty Images

For NFL teams who wish to make a trade, the league calendar has hit the two-minute warning. The deadline is Nov. 2, and this is normally the time where the rumor mill is working non-stop. It’s no different this season, except this is one of those years where one potential trade is dwarfing all others — Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson potentially heading to the Miami Dolphins.

Watson was the most sought-after player in the NFL this past spring, once it was known that he no longer wanted to play for the Texans. The enthusiasm for acquiring him fizzled out quickly once accusations of sexual misconduct against massage therapists began to accumulate. There are currently 22 plaintiffs with suits against him, and he is also being investigated criminally, even though no charges have been filed.

However, the reports in recent days are that the Dolphins maintain a high interest in trading for Watson, and he would waive the no-trade clause in his contract for them. This is one of the many aspects of the Watson situation that has received questions and criticism.

Watson has received no formal punishment, but Tyrod Taylor is injured, Davis Mills III is starting at quarterback, and Watson hasn’t sniffed an NFL game field this season. With his legal situation in limbo, a common question is “why hasn’t been put on the NFL Commissioner’s Exempt List?” NFL Network’s Rich Eisen asked that question to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on NFL Gameday.

“According to the personal conduct policy, the latest version, a player can be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list if he is charged with a felony or a violent crime,” Rapoport replied. “As of right now, that does not seem to apply to Deshaun Watson.”

Unfortunately, that falls in line with a decision the NFL made on another star player in recent years. The NFL did not put current Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown on the Commissioner’s Exempt list in 2019. A woman he had known since college filed a civil suit against him, alleging several instances of sexual assault, including that Brown ejaculated on her back in one instance and, in another, forced her face down on a mattress and raped her.

Brown was eventually suspended for the first eight games of the 2020 season, but according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, that was for a case in which Brown pleaded no contest to the assault and battery of a truck driver. It was also related to a couple of Sports Illustrated stories, one of which centered around an artist’s claim that Brown made an unwanted sexaul advance toward her, and a second alleging that he sent her intimidating text messages after the first story was published. However, in the NFL Network report, Pelissero said that Brown’s sexaul assault civil case was still pending and further discipline could be levied.

Brown has not been punished since.

With Watson, here the NFL is again in another situation with sexual assault charges against one of the most talented players in the sport and once again not being placed on the commissioners’ exempt list — which is really just mandating that a player stay away from the team and still get paid until further notice.

It appears that accusations of forceable rape and forceably putting a penis into a person’s mouth aren’t violent enough for the NFL to say, “Please just go away for a while.” 



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