About twenty months ago, when Britney Taylor filed a federal civil suit against Antonio Brown, the first questions beyond guilt or innocence were typical of the “what-does-this-?” From the NFL. math.
What happens if there is no settlement?
Will Commissioner Roger Goodell suspend Brown?
Will Taylor speak to league investigators?
And finally, the bottom line some NFL teams really wanted to know:
How long will this last Brown’s career?
The answers were all timely, and they can provide an educational background to the future of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is the target of 22 civil lawsuits for alleged sexual misconduct. Watson has the Texans and other teams asking the same questions about his ongoing lawsuit. It’s an opaque intersection that has no discernible end in sight, aside from sweeping settlement mediation (which remains an option) or some sort of unparalleled acceleration of 22 individual lawsuits (which is highly unlikely, if not entirely impossible).
Antonio Brown’s early fighting stance echoed Deshaun Watson’s
While Watson and Brown’s situations are different, it is important to note now that their civil disputes started in a remarkably similar place: with each player denying the charges against them and both depictions defending the players by depicting a woman. Paint. (or multiple women) who file a civil lawsuit to reach a settlement. And in both situations, the players denied the claims against them and insisted there would be no settlement.
For Brown, that settlement finally came about, but only after nearly 20 months of legal battle and right on the doorstep of a jury trial expected to take place in the coming months.
For Watson, his legal representation says what Brown’s attorney said in the fall of 2019: There will be no settlements and the player plans to fight the allegations in court to reclaim his reputation.
The willingness to fight at the start of a civil suit is the attitude that will ultimately set the table for Watson’s future. Brown initially discussed a settlement with Taylor, his former trainer, in the summer of 2019. Those talks diverged and it moved on to the next legal stage of a civil suit, a way lawyers often use to create additional pressure for a settlement. . resolution. In Brown’s case, he finally settled despite his fight against the lawsuit, although it is unclear whether his secret resolution was more or less expensive than it was in the summer of 2019. Given the amount of money Brown lost on approvals and also a significant impact on his NFL earnings (losses still being realized), it’s likely that the financial toll was much higher than the settlement initially discussed with Taylor nearly two years ago.
Is it better to settle or go to court?
From a representative standpoint, this is part of the cold and calculating legal math that comes into play when someone like Brown or Watson is faced with civil litigation. There is the tradeoff of the monetary costs of fighting the allegations in court. There is also the consideration of not fighting the allegations and what that means for a player’s reputation if they settle rather than seek full justification in the legal system. Simply put, is it wiser to mediate in a settlement rather than take on the financial implications of a protracted legal battle?
At this point, Watson’s position has been unambiguously determined by his attorney, Rusty Hardin. Not only has Watson proclaimed his innocence through his attorney, his representation has bluntly stated the position that all 22 women who have filed civil cases are lying. That’s an attitude that suggests (and even asks in Hardin’s most recent legal filing) that Watson wants his day in court and before a jury.
Brown also took that away. And twenty months later, it ended with a settlement before his jury process came about.
Watson’s civil lawsuit could take years
For all NFL teams and Watson, the implications are clear. This is going to be a long way. Probably many years, depending on how many civil cases continue. It also means that Watson could fight this right to the door of a jury trial and then decide a settlement is a tastier option. Or he could submit to jury trials one after the other if the multitude of civil cases never converge as one class action lawsuit that isn’t currently planned.
Barring unforeseen events that will result in all cases being dismissed in the coming months, Watson is far more likely than not to continue his NFL career under civil litigation. That’s exactly what Brown did in 2020, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while his legal representation argued with Taylor’s attorneys and headed for trial. How it all played out for Brown is worth studying as there are some of the same hurdles Watson faces. And it starts with looking at the full picture of Brown’s timeline as it spanned from Taylor’s lawsuit, alleging that she had sexually assaulted her in general.
Taylor filed her lawsuit in September 2019. That was the first event that paved the way for Brown’s eventual release of the New England Patriots later that month. From there, Brown fell into limbo in the NFL, where he stuck in free duty while under a league investigation. Some of that limbo was created by the league itself, which seemed to suggest that if Brown were signed by a team during the rest of the 2019 season, he would be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list – which was basically a paid suspension is. – while league researchers finished their investigation. The NFL investigation eventually lasted 10 months and ended in an eight-game suspension for non-detailed violations of the personal conduct policy.
Brown essentially spent the entire 2019 season of football and then was suspended for half of the season in 2020, all of which happened while he continued to fight Taylor’s civil suit.
The situations of the players are not the same, but some complications could be for Watson. First, there is the ongoing cloud of civil litigation that looms over the head and is likely to continue to produce constant headlines. Second, there will be the discovery process and then the public jury trial that will expose Watson to further media and legal investigation. All of that will affect how NFL teams and sponsors view him financially. And finally, there’s the competition’s opaque research process, which is completely open in terms of a timeline.
Those matches answer some of the questions about Watson that matched what was asked about Brown. If there is no settlement, this will be a lengthy legal process. During that time, Goodell was able to suspend Watson, as he did with Brown, for a period of games within the lingering civil suit. And at any point during all of this, one or more women who filed charges against Watson could speak to NFL investigators, as Taylor did during Brown’s investigation by the league.
This brings all of this back to the question that teams have chewed on that they will continue to digest every day with Deshaun Watson: regardless of his guilt or innocence, if no legal solution is reached for Watson in the coming months, this legal process will overlooked his career for years. And like Brown, there will always be an open possibility that it ends where it initially started – with the quarterback paying years of legal bills and incurring untold costs to his earnings, only to sign a settlement that his lawyers said was not going to happen.
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