NFL deem betting worse than Deshaun Watson’s 24 sexual harassment lawsuits

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Fresh controversy has hit the National Football League (NFL) after it emerged Deshaun Watson will sit out just six games this season despite being hit with accusations of sexual misconduct.

Watson, 26, didn't play a snap for the Houston Texans in 2021 after clashing with the franchise's head office amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault from two dozen massage therapists. The quarterback has settled 23 of 24 lawsuits and has traded to the Cleveland Browns on a fully guaranteed, five-year contract worth $230million (£188m), one of the biggest deals in American football history.

But fans were quick to spot the punishment paled in comparison to that of Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for the entire 2022 season and possibly more due to gambling offences, with a campaign lasting 16 games plus play-offs. It was confirmed in March that Ridley would also forgo his $11.1m (£9m) salary for the upcoming campaign as a result.

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Many consider Ridley's suspension unfair given the offences occurred towards the end of the 2021 season when he had taken a break from the league and had no influence over matches. The 27-year-old tweeted that he'd "bet $1500 (£1,200) total," and ESPN reported the wagers included the Falcons to win.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to Ridley at the time that gambling offences are "considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction." However, Watson's six-game suspension amid sexual misconduct allegations raises the question as to whether the NFL's punishment priorities are misplaced.

"The Calvin Ridley suspension and #DeflateGate will make a mockery of the Watson suspension," tweeted former United States soccer star-turned-ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman. "The @NFL will and always has show (sic) you who and what they care about."

Deflategate is a reference to the four-match suspension Tom Brady received after ordering balls be deflated during the 2014 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The controversy—which aimed to make make balls easier to throw in cold conditions—also saw the New England Patriots fined $1m (£816,000) and give up two picks in the 2016 NFL Draft.

USA Today's Chuck Harris provided further context comparing Watson's punishment and tweeted: "DeAndre Hopkins, illegal substance, suspended 6 games, $5.2M fine. Calvin Ridley, gambling, 17-game min. (officially suspended "indefinitely"), $11M fine. Deshaun Watson, 30+ accusations of sexual improprieties, 6 games, $345k fine."

Although Watson and his accusers have been informed of his planned punishment, there is still a right to appeal judge Sue L. Robinson's reported ruling. Watson will rake in $46m (£37.5m) per year in guaranteed money playing for Cleveland, with only Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Arizona shot-caller Kyler Murray earning more.


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