THE CIRCULAR

Biggest Contract in NFL History Awarded to Player Embroiled in 22 Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Image by Doug Bardwell from Pixabay

Deshaun Watson is a star quarterback and arguably one of the best players in the NFL. Drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft to the Houston Texans, Watson rocketed to fame when he became the starting quarterback in 2018.  He reached 3 successive Pro Bowls from 2018 to 2020, improving his statistics every year and quickly becoming one of the NFL’s shining stars. Following the 2020 season, Watson requested to be traded by the Texans after becoming unhappy with changes to the Texans staffing. Nearly every NFL team was put on high alert by this revelation, as a potentially generational talent was up for grabs. Trade rumors begin to swirl around the media until more revelations surrounding Watson began to emerge. Multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault were levied at Watson and he is currently facing 22 civil lawsuits over allegations of sexual misconduct. Watson has adamantly denied these accusations from the outset. Watson wasn’t suspended by the Texans or the NFL in the wake of these allegations but didn’t play the entirety of the 2021 season as the Texans refused to play him.

A criminal investigation was carried out in relation to Watson’s conduct after 10 criminal complaints were filed against him. On the 11th of March 2022, a grand jury declined to indict Watson in the wake of the criminal investigation. After the ruling Watson’s legal team claimed that “some sexual activity” occurred during some of Watson’s professional massage appointments but he never forced any of the women into engaging in this activity. The verdict reignited trade rumors as shameless NFL teams started sniffing around a trade deal for Watson. 4 teams were seemingly in the running for Watson at one point: The New Orleans Saints, The Carolina Panthers, The Atlanta Falcons, and The Cleveland Browns.

This news depressed and delighted the fanbases of these 4 teams as Watson’s arrival on their player roster could be imminent. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I was particularly unhappy about this news as I did not want this alleged criminal to become the most important player on my beloved team. One of the main reasons I became a Browns fan is because I admired the Browns’ spiritual figurehead, Jim Brown. Brown was a dominant running back for Cleveland and set numerous rushing records, elevating the team to its apex of success in the 60s. At 30 he retired at the height of his abilities to become a movie star and advocated for the rights of African Americans, alongside Malcolm X and Muhamad Ali. Brown went on to form groups to assist black-owned businesses and rehabilitating gang members.

I was relieved to hear that Cleveland was out of the running for Watson a couple of months ago as it seemed he was going to opt for one of the other teams as his new home and the integrity of my Brownies would remain intact. This was until the Cleveland hierarchy decided to go back in for Watson and offer him the largest contract in NFL history; $230 million on a five-year deal. Watson accepted the deal, and I and many other Cleveland Brown fans vowed to never support the team again. Browns fans have stood by their team despite decades of hardship, never making it to a Superbowl, continuous playoff droughts, and even the team being disbanded for 4 years during the 90s; but this was a step too far. The Haslam family who owns the Browns seem determined to end the Brown’s Superbowl drought but have sold the soul of the team to do so.

Social media has been ablaze with bickering Browns fans since the signing of Watson. One of the more depressing aspects of this situation is that the Cleveland Browns were supposed to be a forward-thinking team, being one of only a handful of teams that hired a female to their coaching staff in recent years. When the team unveiled their new star quarterback to the media and Watson was pressed by reporters on the accusations, he once again unconvincingly denied the allegations. Watson is yet to receive any punishment from the NFL, which is expected to be a lengthy suspension for his actions. The Cleveland Browns now have the tough task of reconnecting with their fanbase after rewarding a player with the biggest contract in NFL history in the wake of numerous sexual misconduct allegations.

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