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QB Deshaun Watson is suspended for 6 games over sexual misconduct

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The retired federal judge appointed by the NFL has suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson six games without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy. More than two dozen women accused Watson of sexual assault and harassment in massage parlors. Now, he hasn't been charged with a crime, and he has settled most of the lawsuits. The NFL has until Thursday at 9 a.m. Eastern to appeal the suspension. Sports journalist Kevin Blackistone is a panelist for ESPN and a Washington Post columnist. Kevin, did this suspension surprise you?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: The suspension did not surprise me, given what people had said as this hearing was going along, as this review was going along. Most people had thought it would be about six games or maybe no games at all. And the reason for that is precedent, which is what this former judge, Sue Robinson, who was handling this situation for the NFL, said in her decision the other day. And the problem with that is that the precedent in the NFL for dealing with this sort of situation - for disciplining players who have been accused or found guilty of sexual assault - has been so low that six games just doesn't seem like it meets what should be - what should have been meted out in this situation.

MARTINEZ: It was termed non-violent sexual contact. But, Kevin, let me ask you this because I'm thinking about Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins - six games for trace amounts of a performance-enhancing drug. Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley - a full year for betting on NFL games. So why the discrepancy?

BLACKISTONE: Right. You know, it doesn't seem right when you look at it on the face of it. But this also comes down to the way that the collective bargaining agreement, the contract between the players union and the league, has been written over the years. Things like gambling and drug use are cut and dry. There are really no gray areas with that. They're basically steps on a ladder in terms of the punishment. But when it comes to sexual assault, that's just not the case.

And so this former judge, Robinson, basically put the onus of her decision on the lack of punishment that the NFL has used in the past - one can think of Ray Rice as the most egregious example - when it comes to sexual assault. And if you read her language, she really sounded as if she was hamstrung by the history of the NFL on this situation, which is not at all very good.

MARTINEZ: Kevin, just about 30 seconds here. What do you say if you know a kid who loves Deshaun Watson, has a Deshaun Watson jersey and wants to wear that thing? I mean, how would you talk to that kid about all of this?

BLACKISTONE: Be the player, not the person. You don't know the person. Up until now, Deshaun Watson was a model citizen in this league, and now we know differently.

MARTINEZ: That's sports journalist Kevin Blackistone. Kevin, as always, thanks a lot.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.