CLEVELAND (WJW) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was handed an 11-game suspension and $5 million fine in his final disciplinary ruling on Thursday, said he’ll work to become “the best version” of himself on and off the field.
Both Watson and Browns’ owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam released prepared statements before a press conference.
But the press conference conveyed a very different tone.
“We can talk about Deshaun or we can talk about the major issues the country faces and make a difference,” Dee Haslam said.
“How can we move forward as a country? This isn’t about Deshaun.”
“We’re around him every day and he said he’s remorseful,” Jimmy Haslam said when pressed about Deshaun maintaining his innocence.”
“I think it’s important to remember that Deshaun is 26 years old,” Jimmy Haslam said.
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a prepared statement Thursday the penalty, which includes $5 million to be distributed to charity, has created an opportunity for “meaningful change”:
“As we have previously conveyed, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the NFL and NFLPA structure awaiting a final decision and we have respected the process. Now that a decision on discipline has been reached, we understand this is a real opportunity to create meaningful change and we are committed to investing in programs in Northeast Ohio that will educate our youth regarding awareness, understanding, and most importantly, prevention of sexual misconduct and the many underlying causes of such behavior. Since Deshaun entered our building, he has been an outstanding member of our organization and shown a true dedication to working on himself both on and off the field. We will continue to support him as he focuses on earning the trust of our community.”
Deshaun Watson maintained his innocence throughout Thursday’s press conference, despite the prepared statement he had released earlier in the day.
“I’ve always stood on my innocence. And I’ve always said I never assaulted anyone, and I’m continuing to stand on that,” he told reporters.
“I have to take steps and put pride to the side, and I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence,” he continued.
“I apologize to all women,” he said. “I have to do what’s best for Deshaun Watson at the end of the day,” the quarterback said.
His prepared statement had a different tone.
“I’m grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization,” he is quoted in a statement Thursday. “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my teammates however possible while I’m away from the team. I’m excited about what the future holds for me in Cleveland.”
Two weeks ago, National Football League officials decided to appeal a six-game suspension a disciplinary officer imposed on Watson.
Watson and the NFL players union did not appeal the suspension.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell designated Hon. Peter Harvey to hear the appeal.
Harvey is the former attorney general of New Jersey, served as a federal prosecutor and has “deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault,” the NFL said.
Twenty-four women filed lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual misconduct during massages. 23 of those lawsuits have been settled.