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NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy Procedure Put To The Test (The Deshaun Watson Case)

American Football Field
Friday, 09 December 2022 By Samantha Schmitz

The NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, has historically faced much criticism for relaxed disciplinary decisions.1

In 2010, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received only a four-game suspension for allegedly assaulting a 20-year-old college student.2 Many argued Roethlisberger received a lenient punishment due to his stardom even though this was a serious domestic violence accusation.3

In 2014, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was depicted in a shocking video knocking his fiancé to the floor of a casino elevator with a left-hand punch to the jaw; the NFL faced significant criticism for its original two-game suspension.4 The league extended Rice’s suspension to six games (later vacated on appeal) only after the video’s public release, and promised to impose harsher punishment to players involved in violence and sexual assault against women.5 The Ray Rice controversy led the league to amend its disciplinary procedures to address domestic violence more comprehensively.6 More recently, the NFL and its Players Association further revised the league’s disciplinary procedures in their 2020-30 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).7

This article examines the recent punishment of ex-Texans and current Browns quarterback, Deshaun Watson, and the process undertaken to reach this decision. Readers will learn about the NFL’s new personal conduct disciplinary process in action.

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Samantha Schmitz

Samantha Schmitz

Samantha Schmitz is a 2024 J.D. Candidate at Brooklyn Law School. She is currently a student contributor to the Sports section of Brooklyn Law School’s Sports and Entertainment Law Blog. In addition, she serves as the Vice President of the Brooklyn Advocates for Justice Reform Club and Secretary for the Family Law and Policy Association. She is interested sports law and family law. She has worked at various organizations including the United States Attorney’s Office and Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Law Project.   

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