Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam released a statement on Monday that they "respect" the decision of independent hearing officer Sue L. Robinson to suspend Deshaun Watson six games in the aftermath of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual assault.
In it, they described Watson as "remorseful," a characterization that contradicts Watson's own words and Robinson's conclusion in her 16-page decision.
After overseeing a three-day disciplinary hearing, Robinson ruled that Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy for his alleged actions with massage therapists who accused him of varying degrees of sexual misconduct. The six-game ban fell short of the NFL's leaked desire of at least a year-long suspension for Watson. It also appeared to meet the approval of the NFLPA, which stated on Sunday that it wouldn't appeal the ruling while urging the NFL to do the same.
Robinson stated in her ruling released on Monday that Watson's “pattern of behavior was egregious” but that it was “nonviolent sexual conduct" in explaining the length of the suspension.
Haslams: Watson is 'remorseful'
In their statement, the Haslams — who traded for and then signed Watson to a $230 million contract with an NFL record for guaranteed money — praised Robinson's decision as "fair" then touted Watson as "remorseful" — a conclusion that Robinson didn't reach.
"We respect Judge Robinson's decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process," the Haslams' statement reads. "We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him."
Here's what Robinson wrote in her decision regarding Watson's remorse.
“With respect to what the appropriate discipline should be, I note that there are aggravating factors applicable to Mr. Watson, that is, his lack of expressed remorse and his tardy notice to the NFL of the first-filed lawsuit,’’ Robinson wrote.
Watson in March: 'I don't have any regrets'
As for that "lack of remorse," Watson has repeatedly demonstrated it when asked to address the allegations against him. During his introductory news conference with the Browns in March, Watson denied that he assaulted anybody and declared that he doesn't have any regrets.
Deshaun Watson, asked if he has any regrets: "I don't have any regrets. Like I said, the things off the field right now that came up caught me by surprise because I never did anything that these people are alleging."pic.twitter.com/3i87t1yCjo
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) March 25, 2022
"I don't have any regrets," Watson said on March 25. "Like I said before, the things off the field right now that came up caught me by surprise because I never did anything that these people are alleging."
"I never assaulted anyone," Watson added. "I never disrespected anyone."
When asked on June 14 at a news conference if he stood by his March statements, Watson said this:
“Like I said, I never assaulted anyone. I never harassed anyone. I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”
He did amend his statement on "regret," telling reporters that his regrets include the "impact" on a list of people including Browns management, teammates and fans. He didn't extend his regret to his accusers or note precisely what exactly it is that he regrets. He also said that the "impact" "triggered" people, language that's reflected in the Haslams' statement on Monday.
Deshaun Watson, asked if he still stood by his March 25 statement that he had “never disrespected” any woman in his life and that he had “no regrets” about any of his actions during any of the massage sessions: #Browns pic.twitter.com/CCH8fOwxmE
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 14, 2022
The NFL now has the option to appeal Robinson's decision if it deems Watson's punishment insufficient. It released a statement on Monday that it is "reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps."