The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for 11 games and fine him $5 million for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
Watson will also have to undergo a mandatory behavior evaluation and enter a treatment program, the NFL announced on Thursday.
"Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine, and a more substantial suspension."
"We are grateful to Judge Robinson and Peter Harvey for their efforts in addressing these matters, which laid the foundation for reaching this conclusion," he added.
The 26-year-old quarterback, who played for the Houston Texans before being traded to the Browns in March, has been accused of committing indecent acts during massage therapy appointments, including exposing himself and purposefully touching therapists' hands with his penis in 2020 and 2021.
Watson's initial suspension was six games without pay. The new 11-game suspension will take effect when the Browns solidify their roster for the upcoming season, and he will not be eligible for reinstatement until Nov. 28, the league said in their announcement.
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Deshaun Watson
According to the NFL, Watson's fine and two $1 million contributions from the league and the Browns will be used to create a $7 million fund for non-profit organizations that "educate young people on healthy relationships, promote education and prevention of sexual misconduct and assault, support survivors, and related causes."
Watson has settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits against him concerning the allegations, with the most recent three ending in confidential settlements. He has not been criminally charged and has continually maintained his innocence.
In a statement issued through the Browns, Watson thanked the team and said he was "grateful that the disciplinary process has ended."
"I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused," he said. "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."
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Watson again said he was innocent and explained why he chose to settle the lawsuits against him.
"I've always stood on my innocence and always said that I've never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone, and I'm continuing to stand on that," Watson explained, per ABC News. "But at the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career."
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He continued: "For us to be able to move forward, I have to be able to take steps and put pride to the side, and I'm going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward, and I've always stood on not disrespecting or sexually assaulting anyone."
Dee and Jimmy Haslam, owners of the Browns, said the joint decision by the NFL and NFLPA is an "opportunity."
"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," the pair said in a statement. "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."
They continued: "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."