Innocent until proven guilty. That is the motto with which all cases, civil or criminal, should be approached. Whether it be theft, murder, or in Deshaun Watson’s case, sexual misconduct, it’s of the utmost importance to wait for all information to come out before reaching a conviction. But with a staggering 22 lawsuits filed against Watson, the odds are not in his favor. While none of the lawsuits have risen to the criminal level, Rodger Goodell should put Deshaun Watson on the Commissioners Exempt List until further notice.

The NFL has a history of mishandling cases like these. Most noteworthy of all was their mismanagement of Ray Rice’s assault charges. The majority of the public would agree that the NFL didn’t act with the urgency that was required. More recently, Rodger Goodell was accused of mishandling Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s domestic violence allegations. Allegations that Kia Roberts, the lead investigator, deemed not credible enough to warrant a suspension, although Goodell still suspended him.

We’re now in 2021, and while the NFL handles these cases better, they’re still far from perfect. In the court of public opinion, they’ll probably never get it right. But as it pertains to Deshaun Watson, Rodger Goodell can’t sit back and watch. Does Watson need to be suspended for the upcoming season? No, but should he be placed on the Exempt List? Yes.

The Reason Why

Rodger Goodell justified suspending Ezekiel Elliott six games in 2017 due to allegations from his ex-girlfriend. Many criticized Goodell’s decision, so there is a chance he’s taking a different approach with Deshaun Watson. But with 22 lawsuits alleging the same type of behavior from 22 women, how does Goodell not do anything? If anything, Goodell should place Watson on the Exempt List (for his own safety) and bar him from attending any team activities until this matter’s settled.

Nike took a stance by suspending their partnership with Watson. Beats by Dre took an even harsher stance and terminated their partnership with the superstar. The NFL doesn’t need to go as far as Beats, but the Nike approach is very viable. Nike sent the message that they won’t tolerate the behavior that’s being alleged, they’ll continue to monitor it, and until Watson is innocent, they won’t do business together. By putting Watson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, they’d echo everything Nike said with their move.

The NFL has done more for less. If 22 women aren’t enough to make the NFL act, then they haven’t come nearly as far as they should.

In the End…

What Deshaun Watson is being accused of is no laughing matter. His lawyer Rusty Hardin has gone on record saying that Watson did in fact have “consensual encounters” with some of his massage therapists.

While it doesn’t automatically rise to the level of what he’s being accused of, it’s fair to say that Deshaun Watson has serious judgment issues. Mixing business and pleasure is often a recipe for disaster – something that Watson and other young athletes should learn from this situation. As of right now, Deshaun Watson is an innocent man until proven otherwise. But if the NFL and Rodger Goodell are smart, they’ll at least take a Nike approach to this case.

Follow me on Twitter @KENDRlCKS and check out more NFL-related articles by the Belly Up Sports team.

Kendrick Lindsay
About Author

Kendrick Lindsay

Growing up in a single-parent household came with its perks and downsides. Perk, I became very close to my mother. The downside, she wasn't a sports watcher. It wasn't until I was 15 years old that I was introduced to the world of sports/sports media. That's when I truly fell in love with it all. And it wasn't the X's and O's that won me over, it was the deep-rooted stories of the business, the athletes, and the ever so changing nature of sports that intrigued me. As a recent college graduate and Communications major, I hope to put my imprint on the sports media world.

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