NFL Must Decide Whether Sexual Violence Warrants Tougher Consequences Than Gambling

NCOSE Press Statement logo

WASHINGTON, DC (August 4, 2022) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) urged the NFL to ensure that Cleveland Browns’ Quarterback Deshaun Watson is held to account for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The NFL appealed the 6-game suspension handed down by arbitrator Sue L. Robinson on Monday.

Mr. Watson has faced 24 active civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct, and recently settled 23 of the lawsuits.

“The NFL has an opportunity to send a clear message that it will not tolerate any accusations of sexual assault or sexual violence from its players by ensuring that Mr. Watson receives more significant and appropriate consequences than a mere 6-game suspension. The NFL has imposed tougher consequences on players who have violated the NFL’s rules against sports gambling. The ball is the NFL’s hands: will it choose to treat violations of sexual assault and violence more significantly than gambling?” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

“It has been reported that the NFL is rightly seeking tougher penalties for Mr. Watson. We hope that is true and urge the NFL to consider handing down both a longer suspension and a substantial fine. Sexual assault and violence against women by any NFL player are extremely serious offenses. The NFL has a key role to play in eliminating sexual violence, which is a pervasive blight on society, and a tough stance would signal to team owners that sexual exploitation must be taken seriously.

“NFL policy states that it is ‘not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime’ and that ‘even if the conduct does not result in a criminal conviction, players found to have engaged in any of the following conduct will be subject to discipline,’ and that includes sexual assault or other sex offenses. A serial offender like Mr. Watson must be held to a clear, rigorous, and consistently applied standard that prioritizes the rights and well-being of those who are being sexually abused and exploited. These are serious issues of truth and justice for all that impact real human beings and the wellbeing of our culture.”

In March 2022, NCOSE wrote to Cleveland Browns Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam requesting that they reveal publicly what specific conditions they placed on Mr. Watson to prevent him from engaging in sexual abuse and exploitation.

“The Browns’ owners all but ignored Mr. Watson’s 24 female victims, an unacceptable response, and have yet to be forthcoming about how they are ensuring the safety of any women who come in contact with Mr. Watson while he remains a player. The Browns must have a plan in place to protect potential victims,” said Hawkins.

About National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)
Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national non-partisan organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography. 

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



Survivor Lawsuit Against Twitter Moves to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Survivors’ $12.7M Victory Over Explicit Website a Beacon of Hope for Other Survivors

Instagram Makes Positive Safety Changes via Improved Reporting and Direct Message Tools

Sharing experiences may be a restorative and liberating process. This is a place for those who want to express their story.

Support Dignity

There are more ways that you can support dignity today, through an online gift, taking action, or joining our team.

Defend Human Dignity. Donate Now.

Defend Dignity.
Donate Now.

Your year-end gift will be TRIPLED!

Give now or by midnight, December 31, to TRIPLE your year-end gift through a $40,000 match. Help strengthen the fight to end sexual exploitation. Give today!