Deshaun Watson got off easy because the players remained silent

Deshaun Watson, NFLPA member

Deshaun Watson, NFLPA member
Photo: Getty Images

Silence can be ear-splitting.

And throughout this entire Deshaun Watson saga, the things that players didn’t say are what resonated the loudest. And since inaction is an action, the message about how men in the NFL really feel about women came through quite clearly — if you cared to listen.

“Birth us. Care for us. Love us. Have sex with us. Marry us. Cheer for us. But we will never take a stand for you. We will never be there for you like you’ve always been for us.”

Last month, the NFLPA released a statement declaring how “regardless” of what Judge Sue L. Robinson’s decision was going to be on Watson’s suspension, they — and Watson — would “stand by her ruling” as they wanted the NFL to do the same. A day later, Judge Robinson did what so many white women often do and sold out her gender by handing down a measly six-game suspension for Watson. A few days later, the NFL appealed the suspension seeking a tougher penalty, given that the league had already made it clear that they wanted Watson suspended for a year.

This all brings us to what happened Thursday, as Watson’s penalty became official — 11 games and a $5 million fine. In the end, Watson and the NFLPA won as only five more additional games were tacked on plus a fine that’s pocket change for someone with a $230 million guaranteed contract. For the NFL, this is a failure as the full 17-game suspension they were originally hoping for was cut down to 11.

Or was it?

Between originally wanting a full season suspension and appealing the original ruling of six games, the NFL comes off as if it finally cares about women. It gives them a chance to say, “Well, at least we tried!” But, something about this smells fishy as Watson’s first game back will be on the road against his former team, the Houston Texans. Between Watson’s trade demands and the legal situation that got him into this situation, he sat out the entire 2021 season. And now, by the sheer power of luck — and coincidence — Watson will return to the field in his first action since the 2020 season against his old team in Houston, in what will undoubtedly be one of the most watched games of the season.

Chess, not checkers.

But, how did we get here?

And no, I’m not talking about what Watson is accused of. I’m pointing to how the NFLPA — a bunch of grown men who are supposed to be tough because they hit and tackle each other — went against their original declaration to stand down but then decided to play a game of tit-for-tat like a bunch of elementary school kids because they didn’t get their way. Morals and human decency be damned, I guess. Don’t get it twisted, the NFLPA cared more about the letter of the law than the spirit of it. And instead of players in the league speaking up for the most important people in their lives — women — they said and did nothing, all in the name of “brotherhood” and “locker room unity.”

They say birds of a feather flock together. But to do that I ask, even for the innocent ones, are you that much of a coward that you’re too scared to chirp loud enough so that we know you’re of a different pack?

However, it was wishful thinking all along to think that players would stand against Watson or say that they at least disagreed with his alleged actions. This is a league where men will always turn a blind eye to injustice. Ask Colin Kaepernick if he believes players had, and still have, his back. It’s the same reason why Antonio Brown kept getting chances, and seems to always get booked on a podcast by former players. And did you see any active players vouching for Carl Nassib — the league’s first openly gay player — to get picked up before the Tampa Bay Bucs threw him a bone and recently signed him to a one-year deal? The NFL is where they preach teamwork, yet, history proves that the league is built on selfishness.

Now, on to Watson.

On the day the final decision came down and just days after finally apologizing in an on-camera interview — which sounded just like an admission of guilt, though the QB has denied any wrongdoing — Watson told reporters that he will “continue to stand on my innocence,” and that he never assaulted or disrespected anyone. However, he also released a formal statement apologizing “once again for any pain this situation has caused,” and that he was taking “accountability for the decisions” he made.

Which one is it, Deshaun?

Because by your words, you sound like a guilty man who’s sorry that he got caught instead of an innocent one that did nothing wrong.

In a few weeks, the NFL season will start and the focus will be back on football. And eventually, everything will be about Deshaun Watson again when he returns to the field. But at some point, there will be another incident involving a player who has done something inappropriate, vile, or disgusting to a woman. And when that happens, someone in some locker room will be frustrated with what happened and wonder why this keeps happening. And to that player, I want them to know that the answer is a simple one — It keeps happening because your continued silence allows it.

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