A New Acronym – – TDWS

I spent much of yesterday’s rant on the Deshaun Watson situation and the “punishment issue” facing the league and The Commish.  About an hour after posting the rant, I was searching for issues to write about today and tomorrow when I ran across the NY Times report by Jenny Vrentas that amplified this sordid mess to the point where it deserves a title of its own.  From here on I will refer to it as TDWS – – The Deshaun Watson Situation.

Here is the link to Vrentas’ report; it may be behind a paywall, but if you can read it, I suggest that you do.  And let me take a moment here to make clear that Jenny Vrentas has been covering the NFL for a while now and she is widely recognized as a reporter; her byline on the story gives it significant credibility.

Here are new “details” for TDWS:

  • It appears that Watson had appointments with 66 different female massage therapists over a 17-month period.
  • Watson had a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) he had some – not all – of the therapists sign before their sessions.  That NDA was provided to him by the Texans’ Director of Security after Watson told him that someone had posted some dicey information on Instagram about his massage sessions.
  • Multiple women who did not sue him – or file a criminal complaint – have now alleged that Watson sought or initiated sexual contact in their sessions with him.
  • The owner of a spa in Houston allegedly provided Watson with access to massage therapists who worked for the spa and also provided “security” when he was there for treatments.  Four therapists from that spa are among those who have sued Watson.

As I said yesterday, Deshaun Watson is not guilty of any criminal behavior here simply by the fact that he has not been convicted of such behavior.  Nonetheless, Vrentas’ report in the NY Times presents new and sordid information for public consumption making the NFL’s challenge in the realm of Public Relations even more difficult.  The fact that Watson sought out approximately one new massage therapist per week over a year and a half is unusual – – although not probative for impropriety.  The fact that Watson asked therapists to sign an NDA seems highly unusual to me and the fact that the NDA was given to him by an official of his team means that the Texans were aware of a potential problem.  You could probably convince me that the Texans were part of an enabling process in TDWS.  And the  spa owner who set Watson up with her employees seems like another enabler to me.

The NFL should not care about the spa owner’s relationship to all of this – – but the NFL had best find out through its own channels just what the Houston Texans’ organization knew and when the knew it and what the did or did not do about it.  As of today, this is The Deshaun Watson Situation; the NFL has a significant interest in preventing this from becoming The Houston Texans Situation and/or The NFL Cover-Up Situation.

I tried yesterday to come up with precedents for NFL sanctions that might apply to TDWS.  I focused my attention on suspensions and the offenses that led to suspensions.  Let me also provide here the precedents that the NFL has for “lifetime ban” from professional football.  I believe there are only two such precedents:

  1. Rae Carruth:  He was tried and found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.  He was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison and served 18 years prior to his release in 2018.
  2. Frank Filchok/Merle Hapes:  These men were offered bribes related to their performance in the NFL Championship Game in 1946.  A jury convicted some gamblers of bribery but neither Filchok nor Hapes was ever convicted.  The NFL Commissioner at the time – – Bert Bell – – suspended them indefinitely because he found the players “guilty of actions detrimental to the welfare of the National Football League and of professional football.”

            Those two “lifetime bans” point in opposite directions  in my mind.  TDWS is indeed a sordid mess; and if even half of the allegations against Watson are true, he deserves significant punishment by the NFL.  Having said that let me be clear:

  • Conspiring to murder one’s pregnant girlfriend is a whole lot worse that soliciting sexual acts and/or sexual assaults as alleged here.  If indeed there are rings of Hell, murderers should be tortured more strongly than folks seeking sex from massage therapists.  [Aside:  I would love to see a reporter ask Robert Kraft what he thinks of this whole matter – – but that ain’t gonna happen.]
  • Involvement with gamblers who are subsequently convicted of bribery to throw an NFL game – the equivalent of the Super Bowl at the time – is potentially far more deleterious to the existence of the NFL than any of the allegations here.

It seems to me that TDWS falls into a behavior space that does not have a significant precedent to guide the league and its current Commissioner.  I am glad not to be the one in the role of handing down punishment here simply because whatever Roger Goodell decides to do will be shouted down as inappropriate.  There will those who claim that whatever he does is too harsh and that he has caved to a bunch of accusers who did not have enough evidence even to get Watson to a trial for criminal behavior.  Others will say whatever he does is too lenient and that it perpetuates the narrative that men with money can treat women as sex objects with impunity.

Good luck, Mr. Commissioner.  Your task in resolving TDWS was dicey from the start; Jenny Vrentas’ reporting did not make it even a little bit easier.

Finally, no matter the outcome of TDWS, I believe all this puts the lie to an observation by former US President Chester A. Arthur:

“Good ballplayers make good citizens.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “A New Acronym – – TDWS”

  1. As a knowledgable observer, why not write a piece forecasting what Goodell will do? It seems to me Cleveland has bet big that the punishment will be light — on the order of 8 games or so. I’m curious to know how you would set the over/under for this one. Someone in Vegas must have established a line on this already. No?

    1. Gil:

      I have not seen such a line on any of the Internet sportsbooks. I think Cleveland’s bet is that the suspension will be for something up to one year because Watson’s salary for 2022 is only $1M meaning they structured the deal such that his loss of income for a year’s suspension would me minimized.

      What will Goodell do? My GUESS is he will suspend Watson for a year.

      What would I do if it were my decision? I would put Watson in the Commissioner’s list and keep investigating until Feb 2023; then I would suspend him for one year.

      What would you do?

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