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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Opinion: NFL protects abuser, again

NFL column illustration
NFL column illustration

Content warning: This column includes discussion of domestic and sexual abuse.
Talent always wins. That’s been the rule in the NFL for as long as anyone can remember.
Countless times abusers in the NFL have been given second chances all because they play well and help produce wins. “It’s a business,” people say as if that gives any justification to signing a sexual harasser, an abuser, or someone with questionable character.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson appears to be the latest example of the NFL’s willingness to put morals on the back burner. On March 11, a grand jury chose not to indict Watson on criminal charges after he was at the center of an investigation involving lawsuits filed by 22 different women who accused him of harassment and sexual abuse. Watson will likely only face civil repercussions, meaning no jail time.
What that means for NFL teams is that he can play.
Prior to the lawsuits, Watson was considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. After great frustration with the Houston Texans organization, Watson asked for a trade around the start of the 2021 season. The market for the 26-year-old pro bowl quarterback appeared robust, any team in the league would want such a young star.
Soon after though, Watson was accused of sexual harassment by one woman, and then another, and then another, eventually reaching the total tally of 22. His future in the league was murky, which would make one assume his trade value had gone down. In a sense it did. No team actually traded for Watson up until the decision but reported talks and rumors remained consistent throughout the entire saga.
The clarification of Watson’s playing status led to a disturbingly rapid revival of interest, ultimately resulting in a deal. On March 18, Watson was traded to the Cleveland Browns where he then signed a new five-year contract worth $230 million. His actions were never the problem, only his availability. That’s the bottom line in the NFL: Can you play and are you good? As long as the answer to both of those questions is yes, there will always be a spot for you.
While it was suspected a suspension was coming for Watson, the fact that Cleveland chose to trade for and give a raise to the quarterback suggests that whatever suspension is coming won’t be too harsh. This isn’t much of a surprise at all given the NFL has been inconsistent and extremely forgiving when it comes to punishing players for these kinds of actions.
The modern NFL’s response to sexual harassment and domestic violence really starts with Ray Rice. Rice was a former running back for the Baltimore Ravens and was suspended for just two games back in 2014, after allegedly punching his wife in an elevator. After video of the incident was released, Rice was suspended indefinitely. Sure, in the end, justice might’ve been served, but it took video evidence for it to happen. Once people could see the kind of atrocity committed and not just hear about it, that’s when the NFL had a problem.
However, things have seemingly gotten even more relaxed since then. Kareem Hunt was a former running back for the Kansas City Chiefs who was released from the team after a video of him pushing and kicking a woman at a hotel in Cleveland was leaked. Ironically, the Cleveland Browns signed Hunt that offseason, even prior to the league’s decision on what punishment it would lay down. In the end, Hunt was suspended for just eight games, even with the video.
Tyreek Hill is one of the NFL’s most electric athletes, but he also has one of the darkest pasts. Hill was arrested on Dec. 12, 2014, after he allegedly punched his then-pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Espinal, in the face and stomach. Hill’s draft stock fell, but he was still given a shot and has since become one of the league’s biggest stars. Hill was given a second chance and the people who gave it to him likely said something along the lines of “people change.” Well, that’s not always the case.
On March 5, 2019, Hill was named in a police report as a person involved in a child abuse case. The case was closed just days after, but later, a leaked audio recording featured Hill and Espinal arguing about how their son got a broken arm. Espinal accused Hill of breaking the child’s arm and repeatedly questioned him about it, but Hill simply denied it. Kansas City suspended Hill from the team during the offseason, but the NFL decided in July 2019 not to officially suspend Hill for any games. He missed no time.
The NFL’s leniency with sexual harassment and domestic violence only becomes more appalling when you realize it is fully capable of laying down harsher punishments for seemingly smaller infractions. Calvin Ridley is a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons who stepped away from the team for much of the 2021 season due to mental health issues.
While away from the team, Ridley allegedly placed about $1,500 in bets on NFL games, which is against league rules. As a result, the NFL suspended Ridley for an entire year. Apparently betting on sports games is far more serious than abusing women and children, at least according to the NFL.
That’s all led to where we are now with Watson. Despite being accused of harassment and sexual assault from 22 women, Watson will still get his second chance. Teams never stopped talking about him, fans on social media never stopped fantasizing about him and the women he hurt never stopped being disrespected. It’s a damning decision that reeks of injustice, and the stench only grows worse as the NFL continues to give abusers chance after chance.
Men cannot keep getting away with literal crimes simply because of how fast they are or how well they throw a football. While people may change, redemption must be earned, not simply handed to someone. The NFL has a massive platform and undoubtedly influences our culture. If we see men being properly punished at that level, the highest level, it will certainly have a trickle-down effect.
– Xavier Zamarron is a mass communication and journalism junior
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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