Deshaun Watson, the Browns and the NFL should be ashamed

Deshaun Watson doesn’t get it, and he has absolutely no desire to get it. That’s the takeaway from the quarterback’s first interview when he arrived at Brown training camp. An unrepentant Watson stood before reporters Sunday and called the sexual misconduct allegations he settled in civil court by at least 25 women a media construct that directed a “narrative” against him.

This was not a case of misunderstanding Watson’s words or taking something out of context. As clear as he possibly could, Watson made it clear that he has absolutely no regrets about what happened.

In Watson’s view, it has been unfair that the sexual assault and misconduct allegations were reported on, but not the personal struggles he had as a child to make it to the NFL.

“There are things [Watson’s upbringing] people don’t really get to hear about. Especially last year, it was the media that directed and told something else. It has been somewhat overshadowed. I had the opportunity to tell that story to those guys and look my teammates in the eye and be able to touch them — let them know why I am the way I am. It clearly has an effect.”

The whole process since the allegations surfaced has been to deflect, call the accusers liars, deny any wrongdoing – and now blame the media. Watson’s latest attempt to conflate the lack of coverage of his upbringing with the widespread reporting of sexual misconduct is just another tactic used in a playbook he’s been running since the news broke in 2021.

Of course, there’s a very clear reason why the difficulties in Watson’s personal life haven’t been widely reported — and that’s because they’re not a story of national importance. Spend any time around the league and there are literally hundreds examples of players overcoming personal adversity to succeed in the NFL. It’s not that these stories aren’t interesting or important, but rather that nationally the trope of “overcoming adversity” is too common to tell a wide audience.

Being accused by 25 women of sexual assault is not. That has only happened once in NFL history, and that story centered on Deshaun Watson.

Several elements for this can exist simultaneously. We can appreciate the struggles Watson went through to make it to the NFL, and we can also be completely disgusted by the allegations against him. By trying to conflate the lack of coverage of his ascension to the NFL with the widespread reporting of sexual misconduct, Watson attempts to paint the media as a specter that preys on negativity and gleefully awaits someone’s downfall.

The man is entitled to his opinion. Just like we have a right to think it’s disgusting. However, there is one element of this that is bound in objective truth: the NFL punishment of Watson did nothing to change his mindset.

As part of Watson’s suspension, he was required to undergo an evaluation by behavioral experts as well as complete a treatment program. Those behind-the-scenes processes are largely unknown, but something has happened that has given the NFL reason to believe he’s fine with returning to competition while Watson still says he did nothing wrong, the women lied and the media made it all up.

It is a stark contrast from a year agoafter Watson was reinstated when he said:

“Look, I want to say that I’m really sorry to all the women that I’ve affected in this situation,” Watson said in the interview. “The decisions I made in my life that put me in this position, I definitely want to take back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I’m a real person of character and I want to keep pushing forward.”

It was a terrible excuse, but at least went further than saying “the media directed this narrative.” What it has allowed him to do is reinforce the misogynist’s belief that his apology was insincere and forced, because Deshaun Watson has proven it was insincere and forced. Nothing was learned from the “training” he was forced to undergo, other than checking an NFL-mandated box. When you talk like Watson did at training camp, it doesn’t show that he’s a “true person or character” or that he’s “really sorry” to the women he would eventually pay off in court to make it all go away.

Watson’s focus wasn’t on apologizing, it was on trying to get his teammates to understand that the big, bad media did this — not Deshaun Watson.

So here we are. The quarterback with the best contract in the entire league is a relentless alleged sexual predator who paid off his victims, learned nothing from his punishment and wants to shift the blame onto someone else.

Shame on the Browns for helping to downplay what happened. Shame on the NFL for having such a blatant sexual assault policy that he was able to go through without any change, and shame on Deshaun Watson for continuing to push his own narrative that he did nothing wrong.

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