On Monday, Watson was suspended without pay for the first six games of this season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy in private meetings with massage therapists while with the Houston Texans.
The NFL asked Sue L. Robinson, the former judge hired by the NFL and the players union to decide on Watson’s punishment, with a suspension that would cover the 17-game regular season and the playoffs. No player accused of non-violent sexual misconduct, like Watson, has received a suspension longer than six games, Robinson said in his 16-page ruling released Monday.
“The NFL has informed the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson’s disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon,” league officials said Wednesday. “Commissioner Roger Goodell will decide who will hear the appeal.”
Watson has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The NFL Players Association has already said it would not appeal. The union declined to comment Wednesday.
CNN has reached out to the Browns for comment.
The attorney for Watson’s accusers said the NFL “doesn’t care about women’s rights” after suspending the Cleveland Browns quarterback over sexual misconduct allegations.
Appearing Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take,” attorney Tony Buzbee attacked the investigation, saying he hoped the NFL would appeal the case, but his anger and disappointment client under the lenient suspension given by a disciplinary officer.
“Don’t expect the NFL to do anything heroic here,” Buzbee said.
Two juries in Texas refused to convict Watson of any crimes.
24 civil lawsuits were filed against Watson — 23 were settled in secret.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told CNN he will not comment until the NFL decides to appeal.
Judge Robinson said that she was 26 years old to be suspended because of her “predatory behavior.”
“While this is the most significant penalty ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more significant than any previously reviewed by the NFL,” Robinson wrote in the ruling. 16-page.
But, despite those findings, Judge Robinson criticized the NFL for asking for an unprecedented full suspension that would have been much longer than other players accused of non-violent sexual behavior.
On Tuesday, Buzbee – the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case against Watson – told ESPN that he hoped the NFL would file an appeal because the accusers would welcome that gesture.
“I think that would change the messaging and I think the women I represent would be very welcome,” he said.
In her findings, Robinson wrote that her decision is limited by the record presented by NFL investigators who were former prosecutors with years of experience investigating sexual assault cases. She noted that Watson “allegedly worked with more than 60 massage therapists” during the period under consideration, and that the NFL “only investigated the claims of the 24 therapists who sued Mr. Watson for damages.”
And of the 24, Robinson wrote that the NFL was only able to interview 12 alleged victims. They relied on the testimony of four of those 12 in the case that was brought before them for review.
Buzbee attacked the way the investigation was conducted.
“None of my clients testified before the federal judge. I think that’s a common misconception that four people noticed. That’s not the case. One of them didn’t show up. One of them wasn’t asked to show up and testify, ” he said. said. “Since those interviews, we have had no contact with the NFL.
“They care about the bottom line. They care about making money,” Buzbee said on ESPN.
“They’re trying to manage this as a PR crisis, but as long as they try to do anything to mitigate these particular women or women’s rights — or deal with women’s rights in general — it’s not part of that’s a mission statement and they are. I made that very clear throughout this process.”
On Tuesday, the Cleveland Rape Emergency Center said it was “disappointed” by the ruling to suspend Watson for only six games.
“The 6-game suspension is a dangerous reflection of the flaws in our criminal justice systems and sends a serious message to our communities,” the organization said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “Too often those in positions of power and celebrities who commit violence against others are not held accountable for their actions.
“These continued headlines are an attack on so many. Survivors, we see you and we believe you. Your story matters. The Cleveland Rape Emergency Center is available 24/7/365 online or through call/text (216) 619-6192.”
The ruling comes after several women who worked as massage therapists filed lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions. Last month, 30 women who made or planned to make claims against the Texans organization because of Watson’s alleged misconduct settled their claims, according to a statement from Buzbee and Texans ownership.
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, did not play last season with the Houston Texans because of a trade demand as well as the investigations into these allegations.
Days later, the Browns traded three first-round picks for Watson and then signed him to a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, the most guaranteed money in NFL history.
Watson will not be paid during his suspension, but the Browns structured his new contract so his base salary is $690,000 in his first year and then $46 million for each of the next four years, according to salary tracking website Spotrac .
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.