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Browns QB Deshaun Watson suspended 6 games for violating NFL's personal conduct policy – CBC Sports

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following accusations by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments, in what a disciplinary officer said was behaviour “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”

Watson, who played for four seasons with Houston before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault during the treatments in 2020 and 2021.

The NFL has three days to appeal the decision by retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson.

“Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL,” Robinson wrote in the conclusion to her 16-page report.

Even though the only discipline in the collective bargaining agreement is a fine or suspension, Robinson mandated as condition of reinstatement that Watson should “limit his massage therapy to Club-directed sessions and Club-approved massage therapists for the duration of his career.”

She added that Watson must have “no adverse involvement with law enforcement and must not commit any additional violations” of the personal conduct policy.

The NFL Players Association already stated it would abide by Robinson’s ruling. If either side appeals, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates will make the decision, per terms of the CBA. The union then could try to challenge that ruling in federal court.

The league had pushed for an indefinite suspension of at least one year and at least a $5 million US fine for the 26-year-old Watson during a three-day hearing before Robinson in June, two people familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the hearing wasn’t public.

Watson, who signed a fully guaranteed $230 million, five-year contract, will lose only $345,000 if the suspension is unchanged because his base salary this season is $1.035 million. His $45 million signing bonus is not affected by the suspension.

In a statement, the league thanked Robinson for reviewing “the voluminous record … that resulted in her finding multiple violations of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy by Deshaun Watson.”

“In light of her findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps,” the statement said.

Watson can continue to practice and play in exhibition games before his suspension begins the first week of the regular season. He can return to practice in Week 4 and would be eligible to play on Oct. 23 when the Browns play at Baltimore.

He has been in training camp with the Browns and has continued to take most of the reps with the first-team offense, which will be turned over to backup Jacoby Brissett while he’s sidelined.

Deshaun Watson, left, and Jacoby Brissett talk before practise on Saturday. (David Dermer/The Associated Press)

After learning the ruling was imminent, the NFLPA issued a joint statement with Watson on Sunday night, saying they will not appeal Robinson’s ruling and urged the league to follow suit.

“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office” the union said in a statement.

While the NFL pushed for a severe penalty, the union had argued Watson shouldn’t be punished at all because he was not convicted of any crime.

Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints brought by 10 of the women.

This was the first case for Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the union to handle player misconduct — a role previously held by Goodell.

Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick with the Texans, has seen his playing career stalled by the allegations. He sat out the 2021 season after demanding a trade before the allegations came out.

In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

Watson has denied all wrongdoing, insisting any sexual activity with three of the women was consensual. He publicly insisted his goal was to clear his name before agreeing to confidential financial settlements with 20 of the women on June 21.

“This case started because one woman had the fortitude to step forward and make her voice heard,” said attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women in the civil lawsuits. “Her courage inspired many others with the same experience. None of this saga would have occurred without that one brave voice. One person can make a difference.

Buzbee said that although some of his clients “have strong feelings” about the NFL’s proceedings, he noted that the civil process and the NFL’s disciplinary process “are very different.”

“My role was to advance the cause of my clients, in civil court — nothing more. I’ve done that. I am extremely proud of these women and our legal team’s efforts. The settlements are confidential. I won’t comment further on them,” he said.

On the suspension decision, Buzbee noted that his team was not involved in that process.

“We don’t know what was presented to Judge Robinson by the NFL`s lawyers. We don’t know how the NFL’s case was presented,” he said.

He added that “only a small fraction of those women that we represent were ever spoken to by the NFL’s lawyers. Beyond that we can’t speculate and have no comment on the decision.”

NFL facing renewed scrutiny

Watson’s high-profile case has renewed scrutiny of the league’s handling of player misbehaviour, along with its support for women, and left the Browns wondering if they’ll ever find a franchise quarterback.

Since the trade, Watson has been on public display, with fans questioning whether the league had the authority to ban him from playing despite no criminal charges.

The league has been sensitive about its image and handing out the appropriate discipline for Watson after being criticized for its handling of previous cases of domestic violence or sexual misconduct against women involving Baltimore running back Ray Rice, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt among others.

For their part, the Browns were widely condemned for signing Watson. The team has been desperate to find a long-term answer at quarterback — they’ve had a league-high 32 starters since 1999 — and many questioned why the team would take on a player with so much baggage.

During his introductory news conference after he was traded to Cleveland, Watson was adamant about his innocence.

“I have never assaulted, disrespected or harassed any woman in my life,” he said at the dais, where he was joined by Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski. “I was raised differently. That is not my DNA. That is not my culture. That is not me as a person.”

Confidential settlements

He repeated those comments three months later during the Browns’ minicamp, insisting his only goal was to clear his name. However, a week later he settled 20 of the civil lawsuits. Any remaining lawsuits could still go to trial, but not until 2023 after both sides agreed to wait until after the upcoming season.

On July 15, 30 women settled lawsuits against the Texans after claiming the team ignored and enabled Watson as he harassed and assaulted them during the therapy sessions. Terms of the settlements were kept confidential.

Despite Watson’s legal entanglement, the Browns — along with several other teams — pursued Watson after the first grand jury declined to indict him.

Initially, Watson turned down the Browns. But Cleveland owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam enticed him with the richest fully guaranteed contract in league history, to that point.

Watson had other offers but chose the Browns and waived his no-trade clause to join a team coming off a disappointing 8-9 season. Cleveland completed the deal on March 18 by agreeing to send Houston three first-round draft picks and six selections overall for Watson.

The Haslams said any concerns they had about his character or behaviour were alleviated when they flew to Houston along with Berry and Stefanski and spent time talking to Watson.

An All-American at Clemson, Watson was drafted by the Texans with the No. 12 pick in 2017. He started six games as a rookie before passing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns in his second year.

Watson has developed into one of the league’s elite QBs, throwing for 4,823 yards and 33 TDs in 2020 despite playing on a Texans team that went just 4-12.

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Springer hits two homer as Blue Jays beat Rays to split series – TSN

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — George Springer homered twice, Alejandro Kirk and Teoscar Hernández also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 on Sunday to gain a four-game split.

Toronto (86-67) opered a two-game lead over Tampa Bay (84-69) for the top wild card with nine games left.

Seattle (83-68) was also two games back with a game to play later Sunday against Kansas City.

Toronto allowed 20 runs in losing the first two games, but limited Tampa Bay to a total of two runs to win the final two.

Ross Stripling (9-4) allowed one run and six hits in five innings.

Zach Pop, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards and Yusei Kikuchi combined to give up one hit over four innings.

Rays all-star Shane McClanahan (12-7), who was pulled in the fifth inning of his previous start due to neck tightness, gave up four runs and six hits, including a career-high three homers, over five innings.

Springer belted a two-run shot in the third inning, and added a fifth-inning solo drive for his 23rd homer this season as the Blue Jays took a 4-1 lead.

Springer finished with three hits in his 20th career multi-homer game.

Kirk hit a solo homer during the second, and Hernández made it 6-1 with a two-run homer in the eighth off Garrett Cleavinger.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a ninth-inning RBI single.

Randy Arozarena pulled the Rays to 3-1 on a sacrifice fly in the third.

DISAPPOINTING TURNOUT

Sunday’s announced crowd was 16,394, giving the Rays a final home attendance for the season of 1,128,127. The total will be the third lowest in the majors. Tampa Bay drew 1,178,735 in 2019, which was the last year before two seasons with COVID attendance restrictions. The Rays have drawn under 1.3 million at home every year since 2015.

NUMBERS

Springer has three homers in 13 at-bats against McClanahan. … Rays SS Wander Franco extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a third-inning single. … Tampa Bay 1B Harold Ramirez had three hits.

HAPPY TRAILS

Retiring Rays bullpen coach Stan Boroski and major league medical coordinator Paul Harker threw ceremonial first pitches. Boroski is in his 13th season with the team, while Harker joined the Rays for their inaugural season in 1998.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: 3B Yandy Díaz (left shoulder) was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game but could start Tuesday. … RHP Tyler Glasnow (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to rejoin the rotation Wednesday night at Cleveland.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Open a home series Monday night against the New York Yankees.

Rays: RHP Corey Kluber (10-9) will pitch in Cleveland for first since leaving the team after the 2019 season. Kluber, who won the AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017, will face RHP Shane Bieber (12-8).

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Auger-Aliassime, Sock cut Team World's deficit at Laver Cup – TSN

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LONDON (AP) — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest — and the three-day competition — Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is ‘Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years — after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker — first to 10, win by two — Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, a 25-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Homer-happy Blue Jays regain 2-game lead over Rays in AL wild-card race – CBC Sports

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Tampa Bay’s two-year reign as AL East champion is over.

George Springer homered twice, Alejandro Kirk and Teoscar Hernandez also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Rays 7-1 on Sunday to gain a four-game split.

The New York Yankees hold a comfortable lead in the AL East, and Sunday’s loss eliminated the third-place Rays from the division race, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Toronto (86-67) opened a two-game lead over Tampa Bay (84-69) for the top AL wild card with nine games left. Seattle (83-69) is 2 1/2 games back of the Blue Jays and a half-game behind the Rays after blowing a big lead in a 13-12 loss to Kansas City. Baltimore remains four games behind the Mariners for the third and final spot.

“I think we’re kind of where we need to be,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. “I think we’ve kind of continued to put ourselves in position if we do get into the postseason, we’re in a good spot.”

The Blue Jays return home for six games against the Yankees and Boston before heading to Baltimore for three.

The Rays close out the regular season with a nine-game trip to AL Central champion Cleveland, AL West champion Houston and Boston.

“We control our own destiny on this,” Tampa Bay infielder Taylor Walls said. “Not winning today hurts a little bit, but at the same time we have enough games ahead of us if we play well enough, I’m pretty confident that we can be where we want to be.”

Toronto allowed 20 runs in losing the first two games of the series, but limited Tampa Bay to a total of two runs in winning the final two.

“We showed that we can fight and not quit,” Springer said. “We got down pretty quick to an extremely talented ballclub that’s playing well. To get down and to split, it’s huge.”

Ross Stripling (9-4) permitted one run and six hits in five innings. Zach Pop, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards and Yusei Kikuchi combined to give up one hit over four innings.

Rays all-star Shane McClanahan (12-7), pulled in the fifth inning of his previous start due to neck tightness, gave up four runs and six hits, including a career-high three homers, over five innings.

McClanahan said he is healthy, but struggled with command. This was his third start since spending 15 days on the injured list with a left shoulder impingement.

“I felt good. … Just didn’t have it today,” McClanahan said. “I’ve got to do better. It’s frustrating.”

The left-hander is 2-4 with a 4.26 ERA in nine outings since the all-star break.

Springer had a two-run shot in the third and added a fifth-inning solo drive for his 23rd homer this season as the Blue Jays took a 4-1 lead. He finished with three hits in his 20th career multi-homer game — 19 in the leadoff spot. Only Mookie Betts (20) has more in major league history.

Kirk had a solo homer during the second, and Hernandez made it 6-1 with a two-run homer in the eighth off Garrett Cleavinger.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a ninth-inning RBI single.

Randy Arozarena pulled the Rays to 3-1 on a sacrifice fly in the third.

Disappointing turnout

Sunday’s announced crowd was 16,394, giving the Rays a final home attendance for the season of 1,128,127. The total will be the third lowest in the majors. Tampa Bay drew 1,178,735 in 2019, the least year before two seasons with COVID attendance restrictions in place. The Rays have drawn under 1.3 million at home every year since 2015.

Numbers

Springer has three homers in 13 at-bats against McClanahan. … Rays shortstop Wander Franco extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a third-inning single. … Tampa Bay first baseman Harold Ramirez had three hits.

Happy trails

Retiring Rays bullpen coach Stan Boroski and major league medical coordinator Paul Harker threw ceremonial first pitches. Boroski is in his 13th season with the team, while Harker joined the Rays for their inaugural season in 1998.

Trainer’s room

Rays: Third baseman Yandy Diaz (left shoulder) was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game but could start Tuesday.

Up next

Blue Jays: Open a home series Monday night against the New York Yankees.

Rays: Corey Kluber (10-9) will pitch in Cleveland for first since leaving the team after the 2019 season. Kluber, who won the AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland in 2014 and 17, will face fellow right-hander Shane Bieber (12-8).

Glasnow expected to start Wednesday

Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to rejoin the rotation Wednesday night at Cleveland after missing nearly 14 months because of Tommy John surgery.

The Rays’ opening day starter last year hasn’t pitched this season after undergoing the procedure on Aug. 4, 2021.

“I think we’re pretty confident he’ll be starting for us Wednesday,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. “This is the first time he’s thrown pain-free in quite some time, so he’s encouraged by it.”

The six-foot-eight right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.66 earned-run average in 14 starts last year and is a key addition as the Rays near a wild-card spot.

“Compared to the past, like, three years it feels way better … the week leading into starts and stuff,” Glasnow said. “It’s good to have an [ulnar collateral ligament], you know.”

Cash said Glasnow would throw around 45 pitches in his initial outing, which should allow him to go two or three innings.

Kiermaier playing future unclear

Injured Tampa Bay centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier had an eventful week during the Rays’ final regular-season homestand.

He was the third person in the television booth for Wednesday night’s game against Houston, and got a video tribute during Saturday night’s game with Toronto.

The 32-year-old Kiermaier, in the final season of a six-year deal worth $53.5 million, faces an uncertain off-season following season-ending left hip surgery nearly two months ago. The Rays have a $13 million option for 2023, which they will likely decline in favor of a $2.5 million buyout.

Kiermaier said no when asked if he thought the video tribute felt like a goodbye.

“It was more of an appreciation to me,” Kiermaier said before the Rays’ regular-season home finale Sunday. “Being realistic, I don’t know if that was my final Saturday game for me here in the regular season. A lot of unknowns. I don’t know if I will be putting on this uniform and taking that field again.”

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