Tuesday, August 9, 2022

“Compromise of 2022” For Deshaun Watson?

By Anthony Brancato

During the 19th Century, there were three notable "compromises" in American politics.

The first one, the Compromise of 1820, was also known as the Missouri Compromise because it enabled Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state. In return, Maine, which had sought to detach itself from Massachusetts (which it does not even border, as they are separated by New Hampshire's 18-mile-long coastline) for decades, was admitted to the union in its own right as a free state.

The second was the Compromise of 1850, which allowed California to enter the Union as a free state, in exchange for the passage of the draconian Fugitive Slave Law, to which the abolitionists reacted with the creation of the Underground Railroad, which facilitated the resettlement of escaped slaves from the South to the northern states, and also to Canada.

The third, and both the most complicated and controversial, was the Compromise of 1877, consummated in the very shadow of the scheduled inauguration that followed the 1876 Presidential election. Despite the fact that Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden received an outright majority of the popular vote — 50.9% (unlike Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, who received 48.4% and 48.2% of the popular vote respectively) — the electoral votes of three southern states, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, were disputed.

Without going into great detail, the upshot was that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who wasn't known as "His Fraudulency" for nothing, was awarded the electoral votes of the three disputed states, resulting in Hayes winning the election by a single electoral vote, 185 to 184. In return, all federal troops were withdrawn from the former Confederate states, ending Reconstruction and ushering in the Jim Crow era, which would last until the mid-1960s — and Tilden thus became the only candidate in U.S. Presidential history to get an outright majority of the popular vote, but lose the election.

But what does all this have to do with sports, you ask?

Two more postcards from the edge of politics, both taking place within the last two months, help establish relevance: on June 16, the Senate passed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, by a vote of 84-14, thus sending the bill to the House. But then, however, the Democratic-controlled Senate introduced a bill called the Inflation Reduction Act (which passed in the Senate on Sunday in a straight party-line vote, with the Democrats using the parliamentary trick known as "budget reconciliation" to circumvent a filibuster), causing a backlash that caused 25 Republican Senators to change their minds and vote against a revised version of the bill that had been approved by the House. This led to a public outcry, led by Jon Stewart, forcing a second vote, with the PACT Act passing 86-11 on Tuesday.

The second public outcry also came on Tuesday, when voters in Kansas, of all states, voted 59% to 41% to quash a law that would have banned essentially all abortions in the state — a vote that has caused shockwaves in the body politic and the media alike.

Now, here is the sports connection.

On Thursday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league will appeal the six-game suspension that had been handed to Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson by league disciplinary officer Sue Robinson on Monday — after a public outcry (!) that the suspension was too lenient. Goodell is seeking an "indefinite" suspension for Watson — in other words, a potential lifetime ban.

Guess 2022 is going to go down as "The Year of the Public Outcry."

No matter how much one wants to throw the book at Watson, what about the effect that this is going to have on the Browns, for which Watson did not even play when he committed his civil torts — which is exactly what they are because two separate grand juries in Texas came back with verdicts of "No True Bill," as they say on Law & Order, when it came to deciding whether or not to press criminal charges against him?

Remember when, on October 13, 2013, the Jacksonville Jaguars opened as a 27 1/2-point underdog in a game at Denver? Suffice it to say that the suits at 345 Park Avenue in New York City's borough of Manhattan were not happy: they no doubt would have preferred that the game be taken "off the board" — as many of the biggest mismatches involving Vince Lombardi's Packers were in the 1960s. (Interestingly, the Broncos "only" won 35-19, thus not covering the spread).

Plus, with the Browns not having a first-round draft pick until 2025 pursuant to the Watson trade, a similar situation is certain to arise if Goodell gets his wish and Watson is banned for life — if not this season, then certainly next season.

This is where the "Compromise of 2022" comes in: both parties need to swallow their immense pride — Watson has shown absolutely no remorse whatsoever for what he did, while Goodell is casting himself as the Walter Byers to Watson's Jerry Tarkanian — and agree to suspending Watson for the entire 2022 season, with both sides also agreeing that there will be no appeals. The suspension would end on March 15, 2023 — the day the 2023 league year begins.

Then there will be no reason for anyone to beware the ides of March — except for Cleveland's three rivals in the AFC North.

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