For $230 million, the Browns get Deshaun Watson and questions

Cleveland Browns, that’s your problem now. You wooed Deshaun Watson, took him in, and handed him the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL...


Cleveland Browns, that’s your problem now.

You wooed Deshaun Watson, took him in, and handed him the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL history, despite his tarnished reputation and the many women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

Now, for all his sublime quarterbacking skills, you also have to deal with the storm cloud he’s creating.

It will continue to loom, foreboding and inevitable, despite the grand jury’s decision on March 11 to drop criminal charges against him.

Watson’s legal battles continue. Twenty-two civil lawsuits alleging abuse remain pending.

Even though Watson, 26, avoids a civil trial and settles these cases by paying off his accusers, striking a deal to keep them quiet – common practice when wealthy and powerful men face a cavalcade of gruesome charges – few will forget.

It’s a complex situation, filled with questions that we are all too used to in sport. And like so many things in modern life, it will be divisive.

Many fans will remain firmly behind Watson. They will point to the grand jury’s decision and say the quarterback was wronged by his accusers. They will wholeheartedly believe Watson’s claims of innocence, just as they believe the explanation of his lawyer, who acknowledged that, yes, there were consensual meetings between Watson and some of the 22 women who filed the lawsuits. against him, but what happened was “mutually willed.”

Those fans, perhaps trapped by the lure of fame in a world where sports icons are too often seen as near-infallible gods, will say it’s time to move on.

But many others will remember it and probably never forgive. Instead, they will look at the whole picture: the cascade of claims from accusers who told stories of Watson exposing himself, or touching women with his genitals, or ejaculating on them. Three of the criminal complaints alleged either sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

It’s a model. It’s disturbing, to say the least.

Scorn will naturally stick with the Cleveland Browns for good, no matter how “humble, sincere and frank” team owners have found it through interviews, and it doesn’t matter how well the team performs on the pitch.

And the NFL, which has once again shown its willingness to put profit and winning first, will face another toll.

It is well known that allegations of sexual abuse are difficult to prove in criminal courts, especially when there is little or no physical evidence and the alleged acts took place in private. But once Watson’s criminal case was over, many NFL teams were ready to move on as if his accusers hadn’t spoken with disturbing consistency about what had happened to them.

With Watson’s longtime team, the Houston Texans, looking to trade its star quarterback by the time the criminal case ended, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Saints of New Orleans all jumped into the recruiting mix with Cleveland.

These teams were eager to discuss trading their integrity for a chance to build a winner with Watson. They couldn’t help it, they couldn’t wait to see what would happen to the civil cases. They ignored the victims and their stories.

Yeah, Cleveland got it. But if you’re a fan, employee or owner of a team that sued Watson, well, remember the old adage: Sometimes the best prayers are those that go unanswered. This now applies to you.

In Cleveland, it will be a different story. Watson initially rejected the Browns, but the team beckoned with a deal so lavish it seemed destined to cover him with a patina of respectability: five years, $230 million, every dollar guaranteed.

Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, could have looked at all the allegations known to the public and decided that enough was enough. He could have sent a strong message by furloughing Watson for violating NFL conduct policy — no matter what happens in the legal fight.

Goodell did not do this.

Instead, from NFL headquarters, we learn that the league is still conducting its own investigation — molasses slows down when the signal sent by decisive action is warranted.

How can we be surprised by anything from a league that barely covers itself in glory when it comes to defending women’s rights?

The NFL allowed Antonio Brown to play for Tampa Bay even as he faced charges of sexual harassment and a lawsuit accusing him of rape. The NFL remains inactive even as one of its founding teams, the Washington Commanders, grapples with tales of harassment from more than a dozen women that even implicate team owner Daniel Snyder. . There are plenty of similar stories. Now they are part of the NFL fabric.

As I pondered Watson’s story for the past few days, I couldn’t help but think of another aspect. What about women who are simply trying to survive harassment and abuse? How did the news of Watson’s signing affect women at a place like the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center?

“There was outrage, confusion, pain and women here wanting to understand how this could happen,” said Donisha Greene, the clinic’s director of community engagement, who spoke to me during of a video call.

“It certainly triggered a lot of terrible emotions,” she said. I could hear the weariness in his voice. “Many.”

Greene pointed me to startling statistics showing the volume of sexual assault in America and how difficult it is for women to seek justice in the courts. Out of 1,000 sexual assault cases, the vast majority will go unreported. Of the 50 who will result in an arrest, only 25 perpetrators will be imprisoned.

When it comes to sexual abuse, we live in a world where men often get second chances and women end up with unfathomable pain that society doesn’t recognize or see.

“Unfortunately,” Greene said, “stories like this don’t surprise us.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: For $230 million, the Browns get Deshaun Watson and questions
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