Intended or not, Major League Baseball’s two-year suspension of former Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer is now hovering over the NFL and Deshaun Watson.
While one league’s standards of conduct and sanctioning guidelines have nothing to do with the other, both are linked in the court of public opinion. Particularly where it concerns each league’s handling of Bauer and Watson — two of the highest-profile athletes in American sports to recently face disturbing allegations of violence and misconduct against women.
Thus far, the NFL’s handling of the Watson accusations has alternated between opaque and curious, now lingering five weeks since separate grand jury proceedings against the quarterback wrapped in Texas without indictments. Initially, it was expected that the closing of Watson’s criminal docket would spur momentum in the league’s personal conduct probe. But commissioner Roger Goodell said on Thursday that league investigators are still working and there is “no timetable” for a conclusion.
But in the absence of that timeline, MLB has now provided a template for the NFL to consider, suspending Bauer for two years in the wake of multiple women alleging domestic violence against the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. The decision came after MLB allowed for a February conclusion of a five-month police investigation into Bauer, which resulted in no charges filed against him. Roughly 10 weeks later, MLB concluded its own investigation into Bauer’s conduct and delivered a suspension that echoed throughout the sports world this past week.
Nowhere outside of baseball did those echoes resonate more loudly than the NFL’s league office, which is mounting a Watson investigation that could now conceivably drag into 2023. Watson is currently facing 22 civil suits alleging a range of sexual misconduct or sexual assault. Watson has already begun sitting for depositions in the cases and NFL investigators could potentially obtain them, as they have not currently been…