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Obscene cynicism (daily newspaper Junge Welt)

The National Football League (NFL) sentenced star quarterback Deshaun Watson to a six-game ban last week. It’s a verdict that caused tempers to flare because of its light sentence. 24 women had brought civil charges against the 26-year-old for sexual harassment. At 23, Watson had settled out of court. He had previously been acquitted of criminal charges.

The NFL’s penalty was still pending. In this case, it was not President Roger Goodell who made the decision, as in previous years, but Judge Sue L. Robinson. It acted as a neutral authority. A course of action agreed upon by the league and the players’ union two years ago, as Goodell’s judgments had previously tended to be arbitrary.

Robinson found Watson guilty on all three NFL counts – sexual assault, endangering the well-being of others, and damaging the league’s reputation. She also noted that Watson has not shown any remorse so far. “I have never disrespected a woman,” the Cleveland Browns player once said.

In the run-up to the verdict, the NFL had actually requested a ban of at least one year. Robinson, on the other hand, judged strictly on the basis of the so-called “Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)”, a kind of collective agreement between the league and the union. There, a distinction is made between the offenses of sexual assault (»harassment«) and sexual violence (»sexual assault«).

Robinson found Watson guilty of only one count of sexual assault. Watson is accused of sexually harassing, sometimes ejaculating on, and forcing oral sex, numerous masseuses during his time with the Houston Texans. However, the collective agreement provides for a lower penalty for this. As a result, he was only suspended for six games, despite acknowledging the seriousness of Robinson’s offences.

The league appealed the verdict. That gives Goodell, or someone he designates, the authority to set a harsher sentence, according to the CBA. Watson could appeal again and go to federal court. In this case, however, he would “fight against windmills,” as the journalist Jenny Vrentas from the New York Times quoted lawyer Michael LeRoy on Twitter.

Whatever the final verdict, the Watson case has once again revealed an almost obscene cynicism in the NFL. When it became clear in the spring that Watson, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the league in terms of sport, had nothing to fear, at least under criminal law, some teams outbid each other in a bid for a player who was accused of 24 counts of sexual abuse.

The Cleveland Browns eventually got the nod and gave Watson a record five-year, $230 million contract. Sportingly a win, morally a declaration of bankruptcy.

When it comes to sporting success and the income that goes with it, most teams in the NFL shy away from little. Or as Steve Keim, the manager of the Arizona Cardinals, once said: »We would also like Hannibal Lecter (cannibalistic serial killer from the film »The Silence of the Lambs« etc., jW) if he could run fast enough and just claim he has an eating disorder.”

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