Editor’s note: This story includes details of alleged cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Retired judge Sue L. Robinson has ruled that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and suspended him six games after after he was sued by 24 women who accused him of sexual misconduct in massage sessions.
The NFL now has three days to formally request an appeal and said it “is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps.”
This is far from the first significant disciplinary case to draw a multi-game suspension under the watch of Roger Goodell’s tenure as NFL commissioner.
Here’s a look at how Watson’s discipline compares to other notable cases, in chronological order, during Goodell’s time in charge of the NFL.
While playing for the Washington Football Team in August 2020, Guice, a running back, surrendered himself to police after he faced three counts of assault and battery, one count of destruction of property and one count of strangulation, which is a felony in Virginia. Washington acknowledged at the time that it was aware of “a potential domestic violence related incident” and then released Guice two hours after he turned himself in. Criminal complaints alleged that Guice attacked his girlfriend on three separate occasions, including one incident on March 13, 2020 in which Guice “strangled her until she was unconscious.”
A judge dismissed charges in June 2021 after a financial settlement was reached between the parties. In August 2021, the NFL announced it was suspending Guice six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, related to the incidents from 2020. Guice remains unsigned.
Because of multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the league suspended Brown, a receiver who was then a free agent, eight games before the 2020 campaign began. Britney Taylor, one of Brown’s former trainers, had filed a civil lawsuit in September 2019, alleging that he sexually assaulted her on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018. Sports Illustrated also reported in September 2019 that Brown sent intimidating text messages to a separate woman who had also accused him of sexual misconduct.
The Buccaneers then signed Brown in October 2020 and he helped lead them to a victory in Super Bowl 55, catching a touchdown pass in the game. Brown was later suspended three games in December 2021 after the NFL found he “misrepresented” his COVID-19 vaccination status.
In November 2018, TMZ published video from an incident from February of that year in which then-Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was caught on security camera shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel. Hunt was not charged for the incident, but Kansas City released him hours after the video was published, saying he “was not truthful” in discussions about the incident.
While the NFL’s investigation was still ongoing, the Browns announced they had signed Hunt in February 2019. The next month, the NFL suspended Hunt eight games and Hunt said in a second apology that he would not appeal the ruling.
In March 2016, an Uber driver filed a complaint with the company and said that one of her customers, who turned out to be then-Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, groped her. The alleged victim didn’t go to police and Winston initially denied the allegation. The NFL then announced it was suspending Winston three games after an eight-month investigation.
Winston then issued a statement and apologized to the Uber driver for “the position I put you in.” Winston accepted the suspension and did not appeal, with multiple reports indicating that the three-game ban was the result of a settlement between the league, players’ union and his representatives.
The NFL suspended then-Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith four games in August 2018 that was the result of an ongoing custody disagreement with his former girlfriend. Baltimore said in a statement that the league “found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors.”
The team said it consulted with relationship and domestic violence experts for their perspectives and convened a group of female and male executives within the organization to review the matter. Smith is currently a free agent and has played each of his 11 seasons in Baltimore.
After a year-long investigation, the NFL cited statements from Elliott’s former girlfriend and photos that showed injuries Elliott allegedly inflicted on her in July 2016 as the basis for his six-game suspension levied in August 2017.
The woman reported multiple domestic violence incidents to authorities in 2016, including one in Columbus, Ohio, in July 2016 that led to a police investigation. The same woman reported an incident to police in Aventura, Florida, in February 2016, when Elliott allegedly pushed her against a wall.
Former Giants kicker Josh Brown had served a one-game suspension in 2016 after he was arrested in Woodinville, Washington, in May 2015 on suspicion of domestic assault. No charges were filed. The NFL launched a separate investigation, however, after personal documents were released in October 2016 that contained admissions by Brown that he had physically and emotionally abused his now ex-wife.
The NFL then suspended Brown an additional six games in September 2017, though Brown remained unsigned following the 2016 season, when he last played in the NFL.
The NFL initially suspended then-Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy 10 games for his role in an alleged domestic violence case during May 2014. The NFL investigation concluded Hardy used physical force against his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder “in at least four instances” during an altercation, including one “which caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles.” Deadspin published 48 photos of the bruises and injuries Hardy allegedly caused to Holder.
Hardy was convicted of the charges in a North Carolina bench trial but used his right in the state’s legislature to have the case heard before a jury. The charges were later dropped when the victim in the case, Holder, failed to appear. Hardy denied the charges but appealed the NFL’s ruling. Neutral arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld Hardy’s suspension in July 2015, but reduced the penalty to four games.
In August 2014, the NFL initially suspended Ray Rice, then a Ravens running back, two games for an incident at an Atlantic City hotel from February of that year in which he was charged with aggravated assault against his then-fiancée Janay Rice (nee Palmer). Security cameras caught Rice pulling his apparently unconscious fiancée out of an elevator. A judge later dismissed the charges in May 2015.
Then, hours after TMZ published video of Rice punching his fiancée, the Ravens released him and the NFL announced it was suspending him indefinitely, based on the additional video evidence. Rice appealed the indefinite suspension and won on Nov. 28, 2014, meaning that he was eligible to play immediately if a team would’ve signed him. That put his suspension at 11 games.
Rice, however, remained a free agent and never played again in the NFL.
After he was accused of sexual assault twice in separate incidents, one in 2009 and another the following year, the NFL suspended Roethlisberger six games in April 2010. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell later reduced the penalty to four games. He wasn’t charged for either incident.
In the first, a hotel employee sued him in July 2009 and alleged Roethlisberger had raped her a year earlier when he asked her to come to his room and fix his TV. In the lawsuit, she said she developed depression, anxiety and PTSD as a result, and eventually had to be hospitalized. Roethlisberger was not criminally charged. In the second, a then-20-year-old college student alleged Roethlisberger exposed himself in the back room of a Milledgeville, Georgia, bar and then followed her into a bathroom and raped her.
Contributing: Tom Schad, Scott Gleeson; Tom Pelissero