NFL expands penalties for sexual assault after Deshaun Watson's case

NFL expands penalties for sexual assault offenses – one year after Deshaun Watson was handed 11-game suspension

  • The revision comes a little a more than month before the start of the new season
  • More than a dozen of women accused Watson, 27, of sexual misconduct last year
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The NFL has revised its personal conduct policy to expand the definition of sexual assault offenses that could result in a more severe penalty.

A first violation of sexual assault ‘involving physical force or committed against someone incapable of giving consent or involving threats or coercion’ will result in a suspension of six games without pay ‘with possible upward or downward adjustments based on any aggravating or mitigating factors,’ according to the policy which was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

‘Nothing in this provision precludes the Disciplinary Officer or Commissioner from imposing a suspension without pay of six games or more, including an indefinite suspension, for other types of prohibited conduct. 

A second violation will result in banishment from the NFL,’ the policy states.

Adding the terminology ‘involving threats or coercion’ and expanding possible aggravating factors to now include ‘a pattern of conduct’ and ‘offenses that involve planning’ comes one year after Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended 11 games and fined $5million for violating the personal conduct policy after being accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.

Deshaun Watson’s case of sexual assault last year has forced NFL execs to update its rulebook

Watson, 27, was banned for 11 games after a dozen of women came forward with accusations

Watson was initially suspended six games by a disciplinary officer who pointed out limitations in the league’s policy. The NFL sought a minimum one-year suspension. 

A settlement was reached after the league appealed the initial ruling.

And now, much of the Browns’ success this year will hinge on whether Watson, who struggled at times during his six games last season, can rediscover his Pro Bowl form.  

Last month, the 27-year-old said his time away from football changed him as both a player and person – for the better. 

‘The whole situation changed me,’ Watson said at the Browns’ training camp in White Sulphur Springs, West Viginia . ‘In a situation where I just had to lock in on myself, channel and really know who I’m surrounding myself with and just really who’s going to be there and support me even when I’m at my lowest point and the last few years were definitely my lowest point in my life. 

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam claims that Watson’s time away from football changed the player

Jimmy Haslam, and his wife, Dee, expressed pride in Watson, saying the quarterback  has matured during his time in Cleveland.

‘I think he has learned a lot about himself and what he can and can’t do,’ said Jimmy Haslam said. ‘He’s learned who you can trust and who you can’t trust. Deshaun has always, always been humble. He’s even more humble. I’ll be honest, I think the time away from football, the time away from teammates, et cetera, he now values that more than he ever has.

‘Not that he didn’t before. And you can see Deshaun, who’s always been a leader and last year was in an awkward scenario.’

Watson underwent mandatory therapy as one of the conditions of his ban, and Dee Haslam is encouraged that he has continued to receive counseling.

‘He has said over and over, ”I have learned so much,” and hopefully he’ll continue to grow through that process,’ Dee Haslam said.

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