The NFL is in the process of rolling out its Top 100 players list ahead of the 2021 season. For yet another year, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is featured prominently.
Watson is ranked 18th, according to the league’s announcement Sunday afternoon. The honor confused many. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct and sexual assault in 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints. So why would the NFL include Watson among its top 100 players?
In truth, it wasn’t the NFL’s choice. The annual Top 100 is voted on by the players rather than the league or NFL Network. The players selected Watson — who led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards last season — for the fourth consecutive year. The No. 18 ranking is the highest of his career.
That said, the NFL clearly wasn’t happy that Watson made the list, or at least it didn’t celebrate his achievement. Instead, the league released a very uncomfortable video to accompany the honor. It featured zero player interviews — which are usually a staple of the rankings — and began with this quote from the narrator:
“Nobody knows when Deshaun Watson will take the field again. His future is uncertain. But his talent is unquestioned.”
Here’s the full 87-second video, via the NFL’s YouTube account.
It’s difficult to blame the NFL for the video, but it’s worth wondering why it made one at all given the allegations against Watson. The league could have just announced his place on the list and moved on.
The NFL has yet to decide whether to punish Watson for violating its personal conduct policy, and a ruling may not come any time soon. Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin said that the league has not yet approached Watson and his representation.
“The NFL regularly tries to not reach out to the defendant and his lawyers and seek evidence from them until the criminal investigation is over,” Hardin said, per Yahoo Sports. “Historically, they want to make sure they don’t interfere with the criminal investigation. When the criminal investigation is over, then they will do their own separate finishing up. … I have had no contact with the NFL, except to call initially and say, ‘Whenever the time is appropriate, we will fully cooperate. You let us know.’ And that’s going to be the case.”
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