Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill, like countless other women, was disgusted to see Deshaun Watson suspended only six games for his highly publicized sexual misconduct scandal, including allegations from over 20 women. While Browns owner Jimmy Haslam claims Watson is “remorseful” for the “heartache” he’s caused, Hill hasn’t seen much evidence of that.
“I’m appalled, disappointed—as I often am—in the message it sends to women, which is that we just have to tolerate the bad behavior of men at the risk of our own personal safety and discomfort and just live with it because there are just not enough corrective measures in place to check this behavior. It remains fully on women to police the behavior of men,” said Hill during her appearance Tuesday on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “Once again, here we are, back in the familiar hamster wheel of telling women that they don’t matter and when it comes to the issue of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, our safety will always be leveraged, will always be compromised, if not completely overlooked, as long as you are able to cheer on your favorite athlete.”
Even after Monday’s ruling, Watson’s $230-million fortune remains relatively intact—his suspension will cost him a mere $345,000 in lost wages. Sitting out all of last season, which Hill believes was a negotiating tactic aimed at facilitating a trade to a more desirable team, didn’t cost him a dime. Other than a steady stream of negative publicity and however much it cost to settle his lawsuits, what punishment did Watson actually suffer? Hill would love to know the answer.
“His personal reputation has obviously taken a hit, but there was more reward in this than there was actual consequence. And that’s the part that will always disturb me,” said Hill, dumbfounded by Watson and the Browns’ complete lack of accountability. “He got rewarded with the biggest contract for a quarterback in NFL history. That was his consequence for all the things that he was accused of.”
Judge Sue L. Robinson’s 16-page briefing, the result of a months-long investigation, determined that Watson was less than truthful in his testimony, insisting all his sexual encounters with massage therapists were consensual, a completely different narrative than the one presented by his accusers. Browns fans seem to be in a similar state of denial, conveniently overlooking Watson’s alleged misdeeds at Monday’s training camp, where the disgraced quarterback was greeted with a round of applause. None of that sat well with Hill, who considers Watson’s light punishment a win for “rape culture,” continuing sports’ exhausting cycle of hero worship and toxic masculinity.
“The number of false reports is so low and they try to make that sort of the excuse and the reasoning why someone like Deshaun Watson should receive the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what happened. I can’t speak to his guilt or innocence. But I do know, if you’re accused of this type of behavior, this many times, everybody can’t be lying, everybody can’t be after your money,” said Hill, lamenting a broken legal system that rarely accomplishes its goal of bringing sexual predators to justice. “The rate of conviction for sexual assault and misconduct is very low. It’s what it is. We don’t even have a judicial system that is adequately set up and prepared to deal with this issue. So, in many ways, I should not be surprised that this is the outcome in dealing with an arbitrator who is linked to a professional sports league.”
Hill, like many others, took exception to Judge Robinson’s turn of phrase “non-violent sexual assault,” confusing terminology that seemingly diminishes the trauma and suffering experienced by Watson’s alleged victims. “My mother is a rape survivor. There have been other women in my family who have been sexually assaulted. To see that and think of them, it made me quite emotional,” said Hill. “Rape culture is real. Rape culture won [Monday].”