NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday designated former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey to hear the league’s appeal of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported.
“Mr. Harvey served as the Attorney General of New Jersey and is now a partner at the Paterson Belknap firm in New York,” the league said Thursday in a statement. “He has also served as a federal prosecutor. He has deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and has advised the NFL and other professional leagues on the development and implementation of workplace policies, including the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. Mr. Harvey has also served as the Commissioner’s designee in other arbitrations.”
Harvey served as the New Jersey attorney general from 2003-2006.
The NFL announced Wednesday it would appeal disciplinary officer Judge Sue L. Robinson’s ruling on Watson. The NFL Players Association, which on Sunday stated it would not appeal Robinson’s decision, has until Friday to respond to the league.
Robinson, a former federal judge, ordered Watson’s six-game suspension on Monday, writing in a 16-page report that the NFL successfully “carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson violated the (personal-conduct) policy” by engaging in “sexual assault; conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”
According to Robinson’s report, the NFL argued Watson should be suspended for at least the entire 2022 season. Robinson, however, wrote that she was “bound ‘by standards of fairness and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated'” in her decision.
NFL Network’s Judy Battista reported Wednesday, citing a source familiar with the appeal, that the league again is seeking a one-year suspension for Watson.
“The NFL’s appeal addresses whether, based on the findings made by Judge Robinson, the discipline should be modified to include a professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine, and a longer suspension,” the league said Thursday. “Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Mr. Harvey’s written decision ‘will constitute the full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), Club(s), and parties’ to the CBA.”
Per the league’s personal-conduct policy, the appeal will be processed on an expedited basis and will be based on a “review of the existing record,” meaning that no new evidence or testimony will be permitted.
Watson’s three-day disciplinary hearing before Robinson concluded on June 30 in Delaware.
Watson has previously denied any wrongdoing and maintained any sex with the women was consensual. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints filed by 10 women.