NFL

DeShaun Watson has shown lack of remorse and NFL suspension should have been longer - RAINN president

By Sports Desk December 01, 2022

DeShaun Watson has shown a lack of remorse and should have been suspended by the NFL for at least a year, according to the president of anti-sexual assault organisation RAINN.

Scott Berkowitz spoke to Stats Perform as Watson prepares to make his Cleveland Browns debut.

Watson was handed an 11-game suspension and a $5million fine following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. The 27-year-old has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and is facing no criminal charges.

The ban has meant the star quarterback has yet to debut for the Browns after his March trade from the Houston Texans, which was followed by a lucrative new contract in Cleveland.

The NFL had initially hit Watson with a six-game ban before the punishment was extended. Berkowitz was happy to see that decision taken but says there is still work to be done.

"There's no length of suspension that would make up for the damage that he did to all those women. We initially advocated for a year suspension, which I think would have been appropriate," Berkowitz told Stats Perform.

"But 11's a whole lot better than six. So, it is what it is, and he'll be back on the field. And hopefully, with some different behaviour going forward.

"It [Watson's return] was bound to come eventually. But I certainly wished this suspension had been a little longer.

"But I just appreciate that the NFL added to the initial recommendation, at least, and made it longer than it initially looked like it was going to be."

Berkowitz said he can appreciate the need for second chances, but he claims Watson has not truly accepted any wrongdoing.

Watson has settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits against him.

"I understand second chances, I think that is something as a society we need to offer folks. But usually, there's a requirement that there's remorse and that they make things better," Berkowitz said.

"I think in this case, the day the suspension was announced, I recall he first put out a quote that had been written by the team that said the right things and then he immediately followed that up with what he really thought, which is that he doesn't think he did anything wrong.

"I don't know how you talk about forgiveness to someone who doesn't feel any remorse."

Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said on August 1 that "Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field".

In a remarkable coincidence, Watson – who has a fully guaranteed $230million five-year deal with Cleveland – is set to make his Browns bow against the Texans on Sunday.

During five years in Houston (the last of which in the 2021 season Watson did not make a single appearance), he twice helped the Texans to the playoffs and was a three-time Pro-Bowler.

Berkowitz does not expect Watson to receive an overly enthusiastic reaction from the home crowd.

"I suspect it won't be a hero's greeting, or I hope it won't. You never know when a star comes back to their hometown," Berkowitz said.

"But, you know, I hope that the reaction takes into account the terrible things he's done. It's hard to be enthusiastic for rooting for a guy who's done the things that he was accused of doing."

However, Berkowitz did acknowledge the reception from Browns fans moving forward will likely depend on Watson's performances on the field.

"I'd like it to be taken into account, his actions, but I'm realistic, that's once he gets going if he plays well, that the memory of that, unfortunately, is going to fade pretty quickly," he said.

"Most fans of most teams have learned to put personalities aside and put that behaviour aside, unfortunately, and, once they're playing well, they start cheering for the guy.

"And we're all guilty of that. So, there's always that tension, when your team is putting up people who you need to win but you don't feel comfortable rooting for personally."

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