Roger Goodell

Damar Hamlin Roundup: Bills-Bengals Resumption, AFC Alterations, More

With Bills safety Damar Hamlin continuing to make progress in his recovery, and the NFL having moved forward with their re-worked playoff scenarios for the AFC, attention will now increasingly turn to the upcoming postseason. Here is a quick roundup, though, of some notes pertaining to the game in which he suffered cardiac arrest, and the process by which the new seeding parameters were arrived at:

  • Much has been made about the league’s intention of resuming the Buffalo-Cincinnati contest after Hamlin was taken off the field via ambulance. The ESPN broadcast of the game mentioned a five-minute warm-up period being relayed to both teams – something which NFL EVP Troy Vincent has, on multiple occasions, emphatically denied. Detailing the moments after Hamlin was resuscitated on the field, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that an official told the Bengals a 10-minute warm-up period would take place before resuming the game. Further conversations ensured, however, which included Bills head coach Sean McDermott stating that he was willing to forfeit the game if it ensured it was not played on Monday night. The Bengals, Florio adds, were accommodating of the Bills’ wishes, though they were under the impression the contest would be finished on Tuesday until realizing the Bills had retuned to Buffalo before the league’s ultimate cancellation decision.
  • That move led to the modified AFC structure for playoff seeding, affecting the Bills’ and Bengals’ abilities to clinch the top spot in the conference. When speaking about the owners resolution passed on Friday, commissioner Roger Goodell described it as “a focused approach that would only affect four teams” (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). One of main consequences of the realignment was the ability the Chiefs had to clinch the No. 1 seed with a win on Saturday (which they did) and the decision to move any potential Chiefs-Bills AFC title game to a neutral site – a scenario which is in play given Buffalo’s win today.
  • Another, of course, was the amendment stating that home field for a Bengals-Ravens Wild Card matchup would have been decided by a coin flip had the Ravens won today (which they did not). Pelissero’s colleague Mike Garafolo tweets that proposals were in place to split the aforementioned amendments being voted on, but they did not pass. A coin flip being used to determine the top seed was not discussed, he adds (Twitter link). Throughout the process, the Chiefs abstained from voting given the direct effects the rule changes had on their path to the top spot in the AFC, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter).
  • The NFL also considered the possibility of the Ravens and Bengals playing their Wild Card matchup (which was a distinct possibility at the time, and has since been confirmed through today’s results) at a neutral site (Twitter link via Pelissero). Challenges with ticket sales and other logistics prevented that idea from gaining traction, however. Cincinnati and Baltimore will play each other for the third time this year – and second in as many weeks – during the first round of the postseason, with the Bengals playing host due to their superior record.
  • Competition committee chair Rich McKay said, when asked about the league’s decision not to simply base playoff implications on win percentage, “We don’t capture everything in every rule. When you face situations, you have to try to make adjustments. [This situation was] not that different from some of the COVID-related issues” (Twitter link via Pelissero and Garafolo’s colleague Ian Rapoport). No games were cancelled due to the pandemic, but the NFL has likewise arrived at a response to the unique situation presented by last Monday’s contest not being completed. Now, all affected teams will move forward with their eyes on a playoff run.

Latest On AFC Playoff Picture; Owners To Meet On Friday

Earlier this evening, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported that the NFL’s Competition Committee was set to vote on the league’s approach to the AFC playoffs. It sounds like the decision will now come down to the owners. Florio reports (on Twitter) that the league’s owners will meet on Friday regarding seeding in the AFC. ESPN’s Dianna Russini echoes that latest development (on Twitter), adding that there will likely be a resolution before the weekend.

[RELATED: NFL Considering Adding Eighth Playoff Team Amid Bills-Bengals Fallout?]

With the NFL likely eyeing a scenario where the Bills and Bengals complete the regular season having only played 16 games (vs. the 17 played by the rest of the league), the Competition Committee was expected to come up with a solution. Considering the unprecedented event, it was uncertain if the Competition Committee’s decision would be binding, and Florio expected the final decision would ultimately lie with commissioner Roger Goodell, who would have the ability to veto any scenario.

Instead, it’s sounding like the final decision will likely come down to the league’s owners. A source told Florio that the owners will have to “resolve some “controversial” aspects of finalizing the plan.” It’s uncertain if the vote will require majority or supermajority.

Among the possibilities that have been floated around are a neutral-site AFC Championship game or the No. 1 seed’s ability to choose either a first-round bye or home-field advantage over the No. 2 seed. One scenario that probably won’t happen is the addition of an eighth seed. Florio notes that revamping the postseason “would require collective bargaining with the NFL Players Association.” Indeed, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told Ari Meirov that the NFL hasn’t approached the Players Association about this scenario (Twitter link).

In his initial report, Florio mentioned that the Bills/Bengals game has a “small theoretical chance” of still being played, especially following the good news with Bills safety Damar Hamlin. This scenario would require the NFL to reconfigure the postseason schedule.

House Oversight Committee Concludes Investigation Into Dan Snyder, Commanders

The House Oversight Committee’s 14-month investigation into Dan Snyder and his franchise has led to multiple other ongoing probes, which have produced the loudest noise about a potential Commanders sale. The Oversight Committee’s investigation is now complete, with a final report surfacing Thursday.

The report accuses Snyder of permitting and participating in a longtime toxic workplace culture and obstructing the Committee’s investigation. In addition to dodging a Committee subpoena this summer, the Commanders owner is accused of making an effort to intimidate and dissuade witnesses from testifying. Snyder, 57, also offered hush money to several former Washington employees during Beth Wilkinson’s NFL investigation last year, according to the Committee.

Thursday’s report also links Snyder and the Commanders to playing the lead role in the fall 2021 email leak that led to Jon Gruden‘s Raiders resignation. Former Washington team president Bruce Allen said Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations, indicated the email leak came from Snyder’s franchise and not the NFL, according to the report. Dan Snyder’s wife, Tanya, who had taken over the franchise’s day-to-day operations after Wilkinson’s investigation last summer, said at the October 2021 owners’ meetings neither she nor her husband was behind the leaked emails, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala, Mark Maske and Liz Clarke. Gruden has since sued the NFL, which had previously denied being behind the leak. Thursday’s report marked a key development on that front, among others.

Allen also informed the Committee that Snyder had spoken about hiring private investigators to gather intel on Roger Goodell. Reports of Snyder obtaining damaging information on Goodell and other owners started a firestorm at this latest set of owners’ meetings, which featured Jim Irsay championing an unprecedented ouster of an NFL owner and saying 24 votes to remove Snyder might be there. Shortly after Irsay’s comments, the longtime Washington owner denied hiring firms to gather dirt on other owners.

The Committee accused the NFL of assisting Snyder’s franchise in covering up Wilkinson’s report. The league is believed to have initially called for a written report to be released but later reversed course. Last year’s NFL investigation brought a $10MM Snyder fine and a de facto suspension, but Snyder is believed to no longer be under any restrictions regarding his role with the Commanders. No summary of Wilkinson’s findings led to the Oversight Committee probe and another NFL investigation. Mary Jo White’s inquiry is set to come with a report of the findings.

We saw efforts that we have never seen before, at least I haven’t,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, the Committee chairwoman (via ESPN.com’s Tisha Thompson). “The NFL knew about it and they took no responsibility. [The NFL was] acting like they were doing something. Then they turn around and fix it so [Wilkinson] can’t talk.”

Accusing Snyder of instilling a “culture of fear,” the Committee concluded sexual harassment, bullying, “and other toxic conduct pervaded the Commanders workplace.” Included are a number of former employees’ accounts, with the Committee indicating this run of inappropriate conduct occurred for “more than two decades.” More than 100 former team employees spoke about various aspects of this culture to the Committee. Snyder has owned the team since 1999.

The previously reported shadow investigations Snyder was accused of conducting of former employees during the Wilkinson inquiry surface again here. Snyder sent private investigators to homes of former employees, including Allen. The report also includes accounts from former cheerleaders and a video staffer, the latter saying Washington execs commissioned him to produce a video for the owner featuring “sexually suggestive footage of [the team’s] cheerleaders.”

A statement from Commanders counsel John Brownlee and Stuart Nash (via Jhabvala, on Twitter) accuses the Committee of taking a “one-sided approach” and produced a conclusion that “does not advance public knowledge of the Washington Commanders workplace in any way.” The NFL’s latest investigation into Snyder and the Commanders, centered around workplace toxicity and financial improprieties, is ongoing. As are the other investigations the Oversight Committee’s probe launched. A number of prospective bidders for the Commanders have surfaced over the past several weeks.

D.C. Attorney General Sues Dan Snyder, Commanders, NFL

Still amid multiple investigations, the Commanders are now being sued. The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against Dan Snyder, the Commanders, the NFL and Roger Goodell (Twitter link).

This is a consumer protection lawsuit, according to Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, accusing Snyder and his franchise of, in pursuit of revenue, “colluding to deceive and mislead customers” about the investigation into the team’s workplace culture.

Snyder and his franchise remain the subject of three investigations — from the House Oversight Committee, the NFL and the office of Virginia’s attorney general. Racine’s lawsuit will also seek to have the findings of the NFL’s previous investigation — a Beth Wilkinson-run probe that, at the league’s request, did not produce a written report — public, according to the Washington Post.

Faced with public outrage over detailed and widespread allegations of sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment at the Team, Defendants made a series of public statements to convince District consumers that this dysfunctional and misogynistic conduct was limited and that they were fully cooperating with an independent investigation,” the lawsuit reads. “These statements were false and calculated to mislead consumers so they would continue to support the Team financially without thinking that they were supporting such misconduct.”

Racine’s term in office ends Jan. 2, but he believes the case will move forward. His office plans to issue subpoenas, per Jhabvala (Twitter links). Subpoenas emerged in the Oversight Committee’s investigation, but Snyder evaded testimony for weeks. Eventually, the embattled owner did testify but did so remotely and without being under oath. Those circumstances allowed Snyder to bypass certain questions during that hearing. Goodell also testified before the Oversight Committee this summer, doing so before Snyder.

Repeated allegations of toxic workplace culture and financial impropriety led to this latest batch of trouble for Snyder. He and other team executives have been accused of withholding ticket revenue from opposing teams and keeping refundable deposits from fans. The Committee also accused Snyder’s franchise of dishonesty with the NFL regarding sharable revenue. A former employee, testifying to the Committee, indicated Washington had two separate books — one with the full figures and another with underreported ticket revenue. Regarding ticket revenue, Grant Paulson of 106.7 The Fan tweets the team has sent a letter to various season-ticket holders — some from the not-so-recent past — indicating the team owes a balance to certain fans.

This endless spree of trouble has led to the threat of owners voting to remove Snyder from his 23-year ownership post, which would be an NFL first. It is uncertain if there are 24 owners willing to vote Snyder out, but some likely would. Jim Irsay indicated 24 removal votes could be there, with the Colts owner speaking out after an ESPN report indicated Snyder had conducted shadow investigations of select other owners. Snyder later denied that charge.

The prospect of owners assembling votes against Snyder hovered over the Commanders owner for much of 2022. However, Snyder has since begun the process of exploring a Commanders sale. After defiantly indicating he would never sell the team, Snyder is believed to be seeking a $7 billion sum for the franchise. That would surpass the Broncos’ 4.65 billion haul fetched this summer. The Broncos’ price more than doubled the previous NFL record. Several prospective buyers have emerged.

Regardless of a sale, Snyder remains in hot water. No timelines exist regarding the completion of the three investigations. As of now, the owner is believed to be operating without restrictions in his ownership role. Wilkinson’s investigation previously led to a de facto suspension, but that is believed to be over.

Latest Following Deshaun Watson Settlement

The reactions have been plentiful concerning the settlement reached between the NFL and the NFLPA last month on the punishment for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. The settlement came after the NFL decided to appeal the initial ruling from retired judge Sue Robinson of a six-game ban. Many thought the ban too lenient but the NFLPA threatened to take the matter to court if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided to make the ban last for a full season. Thus, the two parties arrived at the negotiated settlement for an 11-game ban, a $5MM fine, and mandatory counseling. 

There is still one victim of Watson’s actions who, unlike the NFL, refuses to settle with the new Browns’ quarterback. Lauren Baxley is the only one out of 24 plaintiffs who refuses to settle with Watson. In a statement article released by TheDailyBeast.com, Baxley delineated what keeps her from signing the dotted line.

“I have rejected all settlement offers, in part because they have not included any sincere acknowledgment of remorse and wrongdoings,” Baxley explained. “Watson still refuses to admit that he harassed and committed indecent assault against me. Any settlement offer he has made has been a dismissal of his evil actions.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment. An NFL senior advisor offered similar remarks in an article by Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Rita Smith, a former 23-year executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence who now advises the NFL on matters of domestic violence and sexual assault, was disturbed by the heel-turn Watson made last month. Watson appeared to offer an apology to his accusers before the team’s preseason game on August 12, but, in a press conference about the settlement six days later, continued to remark on his own innocence in the matter, effectively wiping out any good will from what seemed to be an apology less than a week before. Smith told cleveland.com that she feels “like he’s playing us.”

Once again, this is not an uncommon sentiment. Reportedly, a high-ranking owner has become increasingly provoked by Watson’s lack of contrition, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Volin reports that one of the terms of the settlement was that Watson would “publicly show remorse” while Watson continues to “stand on [his] innocence.” Like Smith above, this owner also claims to “feel played by Watson.” The owner asserts that, should Watson continue not to show remorse, they may push for Goodell not to reinstate Watson at the conclusion of his 11-game ban.

The sentiment to push for a full-season ban is one not all owners share, though, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. According to King, some owners didn’t want Watson suspended for the full year. Instead, they preferred a suspension shorter than 17 games so that the Browns might be penalized for the fully-guaranteed structure of Watson’s contract. If Watson were to be suspended for all of the 2022 season, his contract would rollover one year, through the 2027 season. If Watson becomes eligible for some of the season, though, the Browns will owe him $40MM despite him only appearing in what is currently six games, and his contract will expire on time after the 2026 season.

All of this is yet to be seen. He may in the future show remorse, allowing him to settle with Baxley, the last remaining plaintiff, and endearing him to the league’s advisor on domestic violence and sexual assault. He may continue to stand on his innocence and provoke the NFL to extend his ban for not upholding the terms of the settlement.

For now, though, it appears that Watson has begun his league-mandated counseling, according to a more recent King article from NBC Sports. The hope seems to be that, through counseling, Watson will be able to understand “why he sought treatment from 66 massage therapists in 18 months;” that there’s a very real possibility that he did something wrong. While it may take years to reach any closure on the matter, Watson fulfilling the counseling mandate is as productive an action as we can hope to expect at this time.

Latest On NFL’s Deshaun Watson Appeal

2:59pm: Peter Harvey, a former New Jersey Attorney General, will hear the league’s Watson appeal. Goodell had the power to hear the appeal himself, but the longtime commissioner has appointed Harvey, who is now a partner at the New York-based Paterson Belknap firm. The NFL’s statement (via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, on Twitter) indicates Harvey has “deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault.” Harvey also helped implement the NFL’s personal conduct policy, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes.

10:23am: It came out yesterday that, as many around the NFL had been hoping and expecting, the league will appeal the six-game suspension handed down to Deshaun Watson. Further details have emerged regarding the specifics of the NFL’s options to proceed and some of their intended outcomes.

One of the central questions is the matter of who will hear the league’s appeal. Commissioner Roger Goodell has  the option to oversee the matter personally, or have an appointee do so. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that Goodell will delegate to “someone not with the league office” (Twitter link). The NFL has faced public pressure to file an appeal, but also had to weigh that against the reality that doing so would appear to undermine the ruling of retired judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent third party authorized under the new CBA to render a decision.

As has been known for some time, the league will be using the appeal as another attempt to sideline the Browns QB for at least one season. Part of the incentive to do so, as noted by CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter), is the fact that Watson’s deal is set to pay him the league minimum (thus severely lessening the financial penalty of a suspension) and his “lack of remorse.” Watson’s contract isn’t unique amongst other Browns stars in that regard, but it has understandably been considered a “sticking point” from the league’s perspective.

Increasing the six-game suspension to an indefinite one, but not including a fine remains one outcome of a successful appeal, per Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson (Twitter link). Alternatively, the league could aim for a ban of less than one season; in that scenario, a fine would come into play. In any event, Robinson adds that a central goal of the NFL is to avoid Watson being eligible in time for the Browns’ Week 12 game against the Texans, which will be played in Houston.

Of course, any action which increases the punishment levied against Watson could lead to the matter being taken to federal court by the NFLPA. The threat of that action could lead to a revival of settlement talks, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (video link). He adds, however, that the league would likely view “a substantial number of games” in addition to “a significant fine” as the starting point for any negotiations.

As Pelissero notes, an indefinite ban would render Watson ineligible to participate in the remainder of training camp and the preseason, so any further legal action in his defense would be expedited by a heavier suspension. In any event, there is more to come in this saga.

Will NFL Appeal Deshaun Watson Ban?

The current CBA gives the NFL the right to appeal disciplinary officer Sue Robinson’s suspension of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who as of now is slated to miss this season’s first six games. The NFLPA announced it would not appeal Robinson’s ban, though that might not be especially telling of the union’s intentions regarding Watson. Roger Goodell or a Goodell appointee could overrule an NFLPA appeal.

With less than 24 hours until the deadline (8am CT Thursday) for the NFL to file an appeal, no such move has been made. While the league could elect to let Robinson’s ruling stand, her determination of Watson’s actions opens the door to Goodell adding games to the ban.

[RELATED: Watson Settles Three Of Remaining Four Civil Lawsuits]

Goodell should be expected to increase Watson’s suspension, sources informed ProFootballNetwork.com’s Aaron Wilson. Such an increase would likely come with a “significant” addition to Watson’s ban. It could also lead to a scenario in which Watson is on the field to start the season.

The NFLPA would have until Monday to file its own countermeasure, but with the CBA giving Goodell the final say, the union’s only realistic hope at outflanking the league would be in court. It tried this in 2015 with Tom Brady‘s Deflategate ban, and that lengthy court saga kept the then-Patriots quarterback on the field throughout that season. Brady’s four-game ban, however, remained in effect; it was merely delayed to 2016. Ezekiel Elliott also played after being handed a six-game suspension in 2017, via an injunction, but the Cowboys running back ultimately served the ban that year.

Cleveland’s schedule stiffens after its first four games come against teams with either uncertain quarterback situations or unproven signal-callers. From Weeks 5-15, the Browns face the Chargers, Patriots, Bills, Buccaneers and have both their Bengals and Ravens matchups in that span. Watson playing early and being suspended during the season would run the risk of the three-time Pro Bowler missing this stretch. Of course, Goodell could use Robinson’s language to drop a season-long suspension — the NFL’s goal during the June hearing. The NFLPA taking the NFL to court in that instance opens the door to Watson’s penalty dragging into 2023, a la Brady’s situation seven years ago.

These potential outcomes would depend on how long the matter stays in court. The NFL standing down here would open it up to more criticism regarding the lighter-than-expected (by many) sentence given to Watson, considering Robinson’s report indicated Watson committed sexual assault. But the league appealing and being taken to court would also keep the lightning-rod Browns QB in the spotlight longer.

NFLPA Pledges Not To Appeal Watson Decision, Pleads For NFL To Join

Contrary to what many assumed would occur after disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson delivers her decision, it appears the NFL Players Association will not appeal Robinson’s ruling and it is calling “on the NFL to do the same.” The NFLPA released its joint statement with Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Twitter today, leaving no question as to their message. 

In the statement, they emphasize their cooperation and participation in the personal conduct policy investigation. They also underline the credentials of the ruling officer, Robinson, and announce their support for the validity and comprehensiveness of the hearing. They end the statement by asserting that they will choose not to question the legitimacy of their process by appealing Robinson’s ruling, and they ask the League to do the same.

This is an interesting decision by the NFLPA that seems to point out a glaring hole in the league’s appeal process. Many initially saw this as a reason to believe that the Players Association had some early indication of a favorable ruling and wanted to make sure the League won’t fight it by pressuring a statement of its own. But, upon further review of the appeal process, it makes perfect sense that the NFLPA wouldn’t want to appeal the ruling.

In the case of an appeal by either side, the decision leaves the hands of Robinson and falls into the lap of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell is the assigned party to make the determination over any appeals. This makes the words of the NFLPA’s statement a lot more meaningful when they said:

“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office.”

Essentially, the Players Association has every reason in the world to avoid a precedent being set wherein the ruling of the independent hearing officer is easily overruled by the League and its commissioner. It would be most beneficial for the NFLPA to ensure that Goodell has no involvement in the final decision. The only way to do that is to honor the ruling made by Robinson.

Watson and the NFL continued their engagement in settlement talks in the days leading up to this ruling, but apparently the two sides were never able to get close, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN. Watson’s side was willing to accept a ban of six to eight games. The League’s initial punishment was “an indefinite suspension with (the) right to apply for reinstatement after a certain number of games.” At the end of settlement negotiations, the League’s final offer was a 12-game ban with heavy fines, nearing the range of $8MM, with the fines taking the place of the indefinite ban.

Since no settlement was reached, the ruling will hold precedence, unless either side appeals. The only way neither side can appeal is if Robinson rules that Watson did not violate the league’s personal conduct policy. It appears the NFLPA is, at least, under the impression that Robinson won’t reach that conclusion, and they’d rather an appeal doesn’t allow Goodell to side with the League.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if this wrinkle in the league’s disciplinary process becomes a focal point in the next CBA negotiations when the current active agreement expires at the end of the 2030 season. Until then, it appears the Players Association will have to hope they can set a precedent wherein the two parties choose to respect the decision of the independent arbiter, keeping the final say out of the hands of the League’s commissioner.

5 Key Stories: 6/26/22 – 7/3/22

Even in the quietest part of the offseason, there were still some significant developments around the NFL. Here’s a quick rundown of the week’s top headlines:

  • Watson Hearing Concludes: The top offseason storyline in the league reached another critical stage, as the hearing presided over by Sue Robinson concluded after three days. Her decision on whether Browns QB Deshaun Watson will be suspended – and if so, for how long – will be the next step in this process, and could be delayed by a matter of weeks. Any appeals process (which would be administered by commissioner Roger Goodell or his appointee) would then follow, and have drastic consequences on Watson, the Browns and, given the precedent it could set, any players who find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
  • McLaurin Signs Extension With Commanders: The offseason was building towards Terry McLaurin signing a lucrative extension in Washington, and he did just that by inking a three-year deal. The pact carries an average annual value of $23.3MM, and includes a signing bonus of $28MM. With the new contract in hand, McLaurin will see significant guaranteed money, while still being eligible for another significant deal at the age of 30.
  • Mayfield Dispels Talk Of Browns Reconciliation: With a Watson suspension looming, many have pointed to Baker Mayfield as the Browns’ best QB option in 2022. He remains on the roster, as trade talks have sputtered throughout the offseason, but the fences between himself and the team still aren’t likely to be mended. “I think it’s pretty obvious the mutual decision on both sides is to move on,” he said, when asked about the possibility of rescinding his trade request to play out the final year of his contract in Cleveland. Finding a trade partner could still remain challenging for the team, though.
  • 49ers Nearing Samuel Extension?: With McLaurin (and fellow 2019 draftee A.J. Brown) having signed big-money extensions, attention will turn even more so to the 49ers and Deebo Samuel. It was reported that, as trade talk cools around the highly-productive ‘wide-back,’ the team is “expected to continue working toward” a new deal with Samuel. In that event, he could find himself under contract by training camp later this month, presumably joining the $20MM-per-year WR club as many others have already done this offseason along the way.
  • Texans Facing First Watson Suit: The civil litigation filed against Watson has been well-documented, and, even after 20 of those suits were settled, will remain a significant storyline into, quite possibly, next offseason. Another development related his case, though, was the news that the first lawsuit related to his conduct while with the Texans was filed against the franchise itself. A statement from plaintiff’s attorney Tony Buzbee suggested that many others could follow, claiming that “the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning.”

Latest On Brian Flores Lawsuit

Earlier this week, there was another update in the matter of the Brian Flores-led lawsuit against the NFL and six of its teams. As expected, the league attempted to have the matter moved to arbitration

Just as that came as no surprise, Flores and his fellow plaintiffs Steve Wilks and Ray Horton are likewise taking the expected step of trying to stop the league from doing so. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that they made a direct request to the league to provide “certain information… that will be relevant to the issue of whether arbitration is appropriate.”

Since the initial request was denied, the plaintiffs have now asked the federal court overseeing this case to compel the NFL to provide said documentation. A six-page letter they sent includes a detailed list of the particular information requested, ranging from general procedures regarding arbitration and the circumstances necessitating it, to more specific materials detailing commissioner Roger Goodell‘s involvement in previous legal matters.

One of the other interesting requests made includes that for “all documents regarding any statements or communication among NFL senior executives regarding the plaintiffs, the lawsuit, and the allegations in the complaints.” Another is for “all documents supporting or undermining the contention that the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their claims with the NFL,” which attempted to use the precedent set by arbitration as standard procedure when making its case to resolve the issue privately.

As Florio details, another aim of the plaintiffs is to question Goodell on the matter of arbitration, including the issue of whether or not he could represent a neutral adjudicator in the case. Given Flores’ earlier remarks, that also comes as little surprise, as it represents a further attempt to keep the matter in public for as long as possible.

With forced arbitration, my case will be litigated behind closed doors, confidentially and without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he said in March. If he and his legal team have their way, though, that situation could be avoided.