Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games for sexual misconduct after an external investigation
The NFL has announced it will appeal against the six-game suspension handed down to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for violating the league's personal conduct policy, with a harsher penalty expected to be implemented.
Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge in the United States who was appointed as an independent adjudicator in the case against Watson, announced on Monday that precedent in the NFL's personal conduct policy restricted her to just a six-game ban for the player, who had been accused of improper sexual behavior by two dozen women during his time with the Houston Texans.
Her 16-page report accused Watson's conduct as being "more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL" but because his actions were described as non-violent, a ceiling of six games was the maximum suspension permissible.
The NFL is understood to have petitioned for an indefinite suspension of at least one year and a fine thought to be in the region of $8 million.
Robinson's determination didn't include any financial penalty for the 26-year-old Watson, who signed a five-year $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns in March.
The NFL was afforded three days to appeal Robinson's verdict, and did so late Wednesday with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to "determine who will hear the appeal".
Rules also state that that "decision of the Commissioner or his designee, which may overturn, reduce, modify or increase the discipline previously issued, will be final and binding on all parties."
The appeal comes amid an outcry from NFL fans who claim that Watson's suspension was unduly lenient.
The NFL Players' Association (NFLPA) had previously asked the NFL to abide by the terms of Robinson's suspension, and will have until Friday to officially respond in writing.
It remains possible that the NFLPA could object to the NFL's appeal and set up what would be a high-stakes showdown in a federal court.
Watson has settled civil cases with 23 of 24 women who accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior while he was receiving massages in 2020 and 2021. Two Texas grand juries declined to advance criminal charges.
There is no timeframe for when the NFL's appeal must be announced. The Browns play their NFL season opener against the Carolina Panthers on September 11.