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Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam defended the acquisition of Deshaun Watson and their belief that “people deserve second chances” following the quarterback’s 11-game suspension.
The NFL announced Watson’s suspension on Thursday after the league and the NFL Players Association reached an agreement on discipline. Watson must also pay a $5 million fine.
In training camp, Jimmy Haslam said the Browns believed Watson “deserved a second chance” and mentioned how well things had worked out with Kareem Hunt.
Cleveland signed Hunt in 2019 and suspended him eight games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after a video surfaced showing him assaulting a woman at a hotel.
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“I think, in this country and hopefully in the world, people deserve second chances,” explained Jimmy Haslam. “I really think so. I struggle a little bit … Should he never play again? Should he never be a part of society? Shouldn’t he get any chance to rehabilitate himself? That’s what we’re going to do.
“You might say, ‘Well, that’s because he’s a star quarterback.’ Well, sure, but if he was ‘Joe Smith’, he wouldn’t be in the headlines every day.
Deshaun Watson suspension, criticism draws visceral reaction on social media
“We think people deserve a second chance. We gave Kareem Hunt a second chance, and it worked well. We hope it works, and we have a strong belief that it will. That doesn’t mean we don’t have empathy. For the people affected, and we will continue to do so.” . But we strongly believe — strongly believe — that people deserve a second chance; we believe Deshaun Watson deserves a second chance.”
He is “absolutely, 100%” comfortable having Watson on the team and would trade for Watson again if given the chance.
“We mentioned at the time that our process was thorough,” Haslam said. “We feel we have made an informed decision. Understand why others may not have made the same decision we did, but we believe Deshaun has strong positive qualities.
“And we think he’s done everything in his power to integrate himself with our team and everything we’ve asked. We believe he has the opportunity to do as he goes through a process of self-improvement and self-growth. A strong and positive contribution to our team and our organization.”
Dee Haslam said she hopes the conversation around Watson can be more productive.
“The dialogue is ‘What can we do next to get information to help other people?’ I think there is a huge opportunity in this area to talk about the major issues of our country like sex trafficking, massage parlor abuse etc,” he said.
“There’s so much information we can take from this, and the opportunity is great. We can continue to talk about Deshaun or talk about important issues facing our country and make a difference.
“My hope is to use this platform to talk about how we are involved in the business of preventing this from happening to other young women, how can we move forward as a country in so many areas that we tend to ignore? It’s not about that. Deshan, and those women get involved and actively participate in programs that educate people. I think so we can go somewhere else.
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Watson will be eligible to play again in Week 13 against his former team, the Houston Texans.