Quick Bit: Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy pales in comparison to Calvin Ridley’s full-year gambling ban, but here’s why the situations don’t compare at all.
Deshaun Watson was given a six-game suspension in August for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after facing multiple sexual assault allegations.
Calvin Ridley was given at least a 17-game suspension in March for gambling on NFL games, including those involving his own team.
There’s no doubt those two pieces of big NFL news involving the Browns quarterback and Falcons wide receiver caused the most visceral reactions while bookending the 2022 offseason.
How could Watson get only six games, even with no legal charges? Why did Ridley lose an entire season for doing something that seems innocuous in relation to Watson was accused of doing?
That might feel like a good argument and source of outrage on the surface. But digging just a little deeper says Watson vs. Ridley is a futile comparison, given the contrasting natures of the case-specific related NFL policies and punishment parameters of both offenses.
There was plenty of gray area involved with the discipline required for Watson. There is only black and white with Ridley’s misdeed.
There’s a reason the personal conduct policy as written by the league is so nuanced, detailed and ambiguous. It’s open to interpretation and the discretion of the decision-makers.
In Watson’s case, Roger Goodell and the NFL were pushing for a much harsher penalty, either a season-long or indefinite suspension. Protecting the interest of the players’ union, the NFLPA had a clear path to advocate for something shorter based on precedent.
Before it was reduced by two games, former Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger drew an initial six-game suspension in 2010 for violating the personal conduct policy tied to a sexual assault accusation. Under the same policy, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games in 2017 after a probe into domestic violence allegations.
When there’s reasonable evidence of some misconduct, six games is the baseline suspension according to the policy. When there are no criminal charges to consider — which was the case with Roethlisberger, Elliott and Watson — it’s difficult to push for more than the floor of disciplinary action.
Whether the NFL needs to adjust that policy is a whole different story, but again the NFLPA is involved, too, agreeing upon it via the collective bargaining agreement. In ruling on Watson’s case, retired judge Sue L. Robinson did the right thing based on what was spelled out in the current policy.
Six games also was something acceptable to the NFLPA to curb any appeal from the union. The language of the NFL’s personal conduct policy makes it challenging to win an appeal asking for more games than that with no new information regarding Watson.
The NFL’s policy on gambling, meanwhile, is simple. Get caught as a player betting on games in the sport, and you’re out of playing the sport indefinitely until applying for reinstatement for following season.
In the end, Watson’s suspension hurts only him and the Browns in the short term. With a case such as Ridley, the integrity of the entire NFL is at stake long term — especially considering the league has now embraced legal gambling as a means of making its operation more profitable.
There’s a reason players don’t put themselves in position to be caught gambling in the NFL — the punishment isn’t worth the violation. Before Ridley, only four players going back to 1963 had been suspended for gambling on the NFL. Strictly speaking about on-field reputation across sports, being known as a player who gambled on his own sport has been the ultimate black mark for a long time.
When examining one’s inner moral compass and the rules one thinks should be attached to it, there’s no way Watson’s punishment should be that much less than Ridley’s. While that’s true and that seems ridiculously unfair, there are two separate and unequal policies at play with different ramifications for different parties.
Originally found on Sporting News Read More