NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has selected former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal of the six-game suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The NFL is seeking a harsher penalty under the league’s personal conduct policy following disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s decision on Monday. Under the collective agreement, Goodell had the option of reviewing the appeal himself or appointing a designate.
A source told ESPN’s Jake Trotter that the NFL is appealing for an indefinite suspension that would be at least a year (as she previously requested), a monetary fine (which Watson was not imposed by Robinson) and a treatment the star quarterback has to go through.
Harvey now works as an associate at Patterson Belknap in New York. He was also a federal prosecutor and a member of the NFL’s Diversity Advisory Committee, which assesses diversity in the league.
Noting his qualifications, the league said Harvey “has deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and has advised the NFL and other professional leagues on the development and implementation implementation of workplace policies, including the NFL Personal Conduct Policy”.
Harvey has also been named by Goodell in other arbitrations.
Watson has been charged with sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage sessions in civil lawsuits brought by 25 women. The meetings alleged in the lawsuits took place from March 2020 to March 2021, when Watson was a member of the Houston Texans.
In issuing the six-game suspension, Robinson wrote that “the NFL has met its burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the report.”
While building on the precedent, Robinson sought to differentiate between violent and non-violent sexual behavior. Robinson concluded that Watson’s conduct “does not fall into the category of violent conduct that would warrant the minimum six-game suspension” that the league had established as “by far the most common discipline imposed for domestic or gender-based violence and sexual acts”.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract which was the richest contract in NFL history for any player.
ESPN’s Jake Trotter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.