In This Episode
On this week’s episode of Takeline. Jason Concepcion is joined by Jordan Ligons, host of the Spinsters podcast. Jamel Johnson joins the duo to recount the WNBA playoff games from over the weekend and share their postseason expectations. Then, Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal will joins the podcast to react to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 11 game suspension from the league stemming from his sexual assault cases.
Jamel Johnson Jordan, let me. Okay. Now, be honest with me here.
Jordon Ligons I will.
Jamel Johnson How do you really feel? The Sparks are in the toilet. The season just ended. The regular season just ended. And the next morning you wake up and Liz Cambage has just posted a photo with her butt cheeks out. Do you think? This is your boy talking. I’m all for body positivity. I support the arts. When you see her with the cake out on a cliff after one of the worst seasons, after the night, after giving up a 41 to 9 second quarter.
Jordan Ligons I watched in person.
Jamel Johnson One of the worst quarters of basketball ever put on film.
Jordan Ligons Ever. Mm hmm.
Jamel Johnson 12 hours later, Liz is letting the things loose. Are you happy when you see it?
Jason Concepcion Hello and welcome to Takeline. I’m your host, Jason Concepcion. Today Jordan LIgons will be riding shotgun with us. Got a great show for you. This week will be joined by the great Jamel Johnson to talk about WNBA playoffs. Then Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal will join us to react to the Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 11 game suspension stemming from his stomach churning sexual assault cases. But let’s get into it. Jamel, Jordan, it’s so great to see you. Before we get started, a strange thing is happening and that is Arsenal FC. They’re playing great. They’re doing great. It is August, but they’re doing great in a way that feels like things. The events of recent years have been upended, and so I’d like to talk about it with you for a little while, Jamel and I would also like to see if we can indoctrinate Jordan.
Jamel Johnson Jordan, I know you don’t.
Jordan Ligons I don’t know.
Jamel Johnson You might not know what’s going on. Imagine if your student loans were just forgiven out of nowhere.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, forgiven.
Jordan Ligons Wow. Okay, this is a great day.
Jamel Johnson Okay, that’s how this feels. You’re just like, whoa. I never thought I would see this day.
Jordan Ligons All right, all right.
Jamel Johnson And then it happens before your eyes.
Jordan Ligons All right. Anything with my loans forgiven, I’m, I am a fan of.
Jason Concepcion Like, legitimately. You pick up your cell phone, it’s the morning, right? Your alarm goes off, you’re like, What’s going on? 6 a.m.. You’re like, I got this weird. What is this number of voicemail? Okay, I listen to it and it’s like, Hey, Jordan, what’s up? It’s big student loans here. You’re good. Don’t worry about it. We’re good. Oh, I see what you’re doing over there. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We can get this money, we can get this paper from other people. We don’t need it from you. We’re good.
Jamel Johnson Wow. 5000 British men chant tequila. And dun, dun, dun, dun.*Musical sounds*
Jason Concepcion Yeah. Dun, dun, dun.
Jamel Johnson Saliva.
Jason Concepcion Saliva. So what’s going on Jordan, is the previously in the history of the recent EPL arsenal FC of North London have been kind of a joke, sort of a doormat. Their long time and iconic manager had stepped away some years ago and that had ushered in a period of turmoil when it had become fun to make fun of this team that had fallen from such heights. They were actually not like they fell to eighth, which feels terrible because you’re out of the you’re out of the money. Basically, you don’t finish top four. You don’t get to play in the best tournament in the world, the Champions League. And so you miss out on like millions and millions and millions of euros that you could then use to to help your team. So they’ve they finished eighth and it’s not great. That’s the lowest they felt. But it’s been tough. And now they’re back. They made some great signings and it’s a young squad that has been together a little while and now all of a sudden you feel like they’re gelling and it’s just a fun time to root for the team. Jamel, what am I missing here?
Jamel Johnson Absolutely nothing. Sorry. Also, you should keep in mind that everybody on the team is like under 25. They’re all cute, little babies.
Jason Concepcion Little children.
Speaker 2 Babies playing soccer.
Jamel Johnson They’re babies playing soccer with adults and they can’t be stopped.
Jason Concepcion They’re striker. His name is spelled Jesus, but it’s Jesus, Gabriel Jesus. And when I tell you that no man has ever held that name in such high esteem since the ancient days, then this man right now, Gabriel.
Jamel Johnson Jesus, he is the white Jesus. He’s not white, but he is the white Jesus.
Jason Concepcion Well, he’s Brazilian. He’s like a cocoa skinned man. But absolutely.
Jordan Ligons Is Jesus on the back of his jersey? Because that’s.
Jamel Johnson Yes.
Jordan Ligons Amazing. Okay. That’s awesome.
Jamel Johnson Number nine. Jesus.
Jason Concepcion Yes.
Jordan Ligons Seven was taken? Oh my God. Okay.
Jason Concepcion And on top of that, Jordan, the teams that have been dominant in recent days, many of them owned by the sovereign wealth funds of various oil producing nations, are, if not struggling, not starting as strongly as one would expect. Chelsea, who very recently were owned by Roman Abramovich, currently under UN sanction and United States sanctioned due to his his ties to the Vladimir Putin government in Russia, was formerly the owner of Chelsea, and they just got molly-wopped three goals to nil by Leeds United managed by American Jesse March. All those Ted Lasso jokes that have been swirling around suddenly put to bed in one fell swoop.
Jordan Ligons Mmmmm. Okey. This is drama, the one thing I could get on board with is some drama. I like it.
Jamel Johnson No, hell a drama. I mean, it’s it is a drama that is on Amazon Prime that you can watch. Go ahead. Throw on some of all or nothing. The best comp I can give you is just like, what if we were on the other side of the Sparks rebuilding already and the Sparks were really good?
Jason Concepcion Yes. All the pieces had like come together. All the struggle, all of that has is suddenly paying dividends. And you’ve come out the other side or seemingly come out the other side. And not only that, but all of that drama had been put on front sheet for everyone to see. Much like Arsenal is in this All or Nothing documentary, you get to see the struggles that brought us to this place. It’s a great place to be, Jordan.
Jordan Ligons Wow, I’m so happy for you guys. That seems like a fun time, fun thing to celebrate. If it was the Sparks, just that thought honestly brought tears to my eyes of us being good again. That would be a wonderful sight. I can’t even imagine what that day feels like. So I’m with you.
Jamel Johnson Imagine if Jordan Canada made Team USA. Is she even American? Imagine if she missed two free throws to win the Olympics and then came back for the WNBA season and was un-fucking-stoppable.
Jordan Ligons Wow. We love a redemption arc. This is this is a drama show. I like it.
Jamel Johnson It’s all there. It’s all there.
Jordan Ligons All or Nothing.
Jason Concepcion It’s all there. Jordan, how are you feeling about the Sparks? It’s been a tumultuous, I mean, there’s no way to, it’s been a tumultuous several weeks.
Jordan Ligons So, you know, just I feel about the Sparks. I I’ve said this on other episodes.
Jason Concepcion Yes.
Jordan Ligons You know, podcast before, but I stick with it. I’m more upset at myself. And I think that’s the reflection that I have to take. I, I look back in like March. I was high on life. I was like, we got Liz Cambage, we got Jordan Canada, we got eChennedy Carter. Like, this is going to be the best season ever. We’re back, baby. None of that happened. And we were second to dead last.
Jason Concepcion I know.
Jordan Ligons In the standings. And there was so many left turns like Derek Fisher gets fired, which I celebrated. And then that was a good left turn.
Jason Concepcion That was a good left turn. That was a turn. That was a turn that had been long on the GPS and we had been waiting for that turn.
Jordan Ligons The worst part about him getting fired was him tweeting right after and saying, you know, thanks to the Sparks organization, but I’m open to positions in the NBA and player development, so email me. And I wanted to blow up the computer. Oh, my God.
Jamel Johnson Jordan, let me. Okay, now, be honest with me here.
Jordan Ligons I will.
Jamel Johnson How do you really feel? The sparks are in the toilet. The season just ended, the regular season just ended. And the next morning you wake up and Liz Cambage has just posted a photo with her butt cheeks out. Do you? This is, this is your boy talking. I’m all for body positivity. I support the arts. When you see her with the cakes out on a cliff after one of the worst seasons, after the night after giving up a 41 to 9 second quarter.
Jordan Ligons That I watched in person.
Jamel Johnson One of the worst quarters of basketball ever put on film.
Jordan Ligons Ever. Mm hmm.
Jamel Johnson 12 hours later, Liz is letting the things loose. Are you, are you happy when you see it?
Jordan Ligons I’m. I can report, I’m not happy. I’m not happy. But, it’s what I expected. She has left basketball to pursue modeling. And here’s the thing, Liz Cambage doesn’t like basketball. Like she didn’t seem like she was happy playing basketball.
Jason Concepcion She doesn’t seem to like a lot of things.
Jordan Ligons Yeah.
Jason Concepcion And a lot of things doesn’t seem to like her.
Jordan Ligons Exactly.
Jason Concepcion Fairly so.
Jamel Johnson She doesn’t like the sport of basketball. It doesn’t like the people who play basketball.
Jordan Ligons Who play basketball. It was a lot. I think that’s where I blame myself because she has shown time and time again that she is a quitter. And for me to be like, she’s not going to quit on us. Like, Where are the Sparks. She wanted to be in L.A. this week. We had a press conference. We rolled out the red carpet for her, and for her to just quit at a very pivotal time just speaks volumes. And everyone in the league is like, We don’t want her on our team. She hasn’t played two consecutive seasons for a franchise, like she has quit on everyone. And so I think it’s just like keep modeling, show off your butt cheeks because that is what brings you joy, not basketball. And for people who are Sparks fans and want to actually win, we want people on the floor that want to play basketball.
Jamel Johnson Damn that was real.
Jason Concepcion Damn.
Jamel Johnson Felt the exhale. I could feel the way.
Jason Concepcion That was real.
Jamel Johnson The gust, just coming off of that breath. I was like I was like she was holding the aces down. And what I wanted to happen, I was like, They’re going to trade Liz to L.A. for Candace and then can and then Vegas will finally win. But, took a couple more years, but we ended up there.
Jordan Ligons Yeah. Yeah, it’s, Vegas, I think you are able to see what a Liz-less basketball team can accomplish. They are playing with so much joy. They are playing together. And I’m that’s the positivity of me of like next year we won’t have that cancerous attitude in the locker room from the jump. So hopefully they can, you know, because I talk to the players all the time, they’re like, it was a horrible year. Like everybody was frustrated, nobody liked each other. Practices were tough. We’re learning new systems with the coach. And so now going into next year, they will have a new coach. It’s official and hopefully we can just get that from the jump. Everybody buying in, wanting to play basketball, wanting to win. Because I’m a I’m an L.A. sports fan. We win. We don’t know how to lose. This is a tough time.
Jamel Johnson Perhaps this is the time for y’all to learn. I mean, it’s been, I can’t. Take this time, learn your lessons.
Jordan Ligons I don’t want to learn the lessons.
Jason Concepcion I just want to say the less said about Derek Fisher, the better. But I just want to say at this point, I think it’s become clear to everyone that he is on top of everything else, on top of the fact that he is up to some sheisty, like there is something grimy about this guy. That said, he’s also like really dumb. He’s also, like, not a smart man.
Jordan Ligons Yeah, sure. He’s just he had no experience coaching women’s.
Jason Concepcion Zero.
Jordan Ligons Basketball and to be handed this.
Jason Concepcion None.
Jordan Ligons Job with, like, a red ribbon and like, here, here’s the keys to a championship franchise in the Sparks was such a slap in the face. And for him to tank it and then leave and be like, yeah, you know player development, NBA, like, if you guys want me, call me. No one’s going to call you. You’re terrible at coaching. You’re really bad.
Jason Concepcion Game three, Chicago, New York, this Tuesday, shocking game one win. And then this guy come out and roll a monster truck over the Liberty Face. What do we expect for game three?
Jamel Johnson It being in New York. It’s tough, man. It’s tough to I.
Jordan Ligons Oh, it’s tough. I think we have to talk about the playoff format. So the new change now, it’s not a single elimination game which thank God, because Chicago Sky would be out. So now we’re going in the first round, best of three in the next two rounds, best of five, but with the best of three, the top seeded team, if it goes three, has to win on the road. What?
Jason Concepcion And that’s for travel. It’s like it’s like you’re already making them fly commercial. Just do the right thing. Make the last game with the home court advantage.
Jordan Ligons Not it’s not good for a Liberty team that has sold out Barclays Center like their crowd is one of the best in the league and they were probably like second quarter of their blowout loss. They were like, Oh thank God, we’re going back home. Like, we’re so excited to go back to New York.
Jamel Johnson Losing by 40 is honestly like really good now. And in that situation, you know, it’s like, okay, put the bench in. We’re getting ready for game three, where we’re headed home. You can’t you get another chance to play. It’s almost like this 40 point drubbing didn’t even happen.
Jason Concepcion Headed home is wild, and it definitely feels like like one of the, you know, one of the many, like, wait, what what are we doing? We’re going to fix this, right? Like this. There’s they this will be the case for this season, maybe, you know, and but they got to change this. I think everyone knows that this will change, right.
Jamel Johnson If New York wins, it’s getting changed immediately. Candace Parker is going to have the rules in her shorts.
Jordan Ligons Here if because now we’re at two of those scenarios. Dallas Wings also has a chance to upset Connecticut. So if either of those they names win, then the rule gets changed immediately. Because if we remember last year, Chicago was 500 going into the playoffs. They beat they won all their single elimination games to win. The championship rule gets changed immediately. Like not even when we’re talking about WNBA news. It was like in October. No one’s talking about the WNBA then and they changed the rule. So this is going to get changed immediately if one of those teams get upset.
Jamel Johnson I don’t understand why it can’t just be three out of five all the way through. Just make it three out of five all the way through, man.
Jordan Ligons Just make it three out of five. I know.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Jamel Johnson That’s fine with me.
Jason Concepcion I think the issue is probably holding that venue, right. That’s probably what it is like holding the date. But I mean, it goes back to the idea of investing in the sport. If you continuously are like, where can we cut a corner just so we can save the money? And what happens is you have stuff like this.
Jordan Ligons It doesn’t make any sense and it is cutting corners. It’s like, okay, the least amount of travel because then if they win, they could just stay there and maybe just play their next game and we’ll get a discounted rate for groups. I don’t know.
Jamel Johnson It’s summertime, man. What’s the point of playing in the summertime if you can’t lock an arena down? Oh, we can’t play the playoffs here tonight because fucking equestrian is in town because we got some horses coming in. Oh, guys, AH HA is doing a concert. We can’t had a game. You remember that one song?
Jason Concepcion Let’s go to some sad news for Jamel. The Seattle Storm eliminated the Washington Mystics behind a double double from 41 year old Sue Bird, the oldest the oldest player to record a WNBA.
Jamel Johnson Let me stop you right there, Jason.
Jason Concepcion Okay. Okay
Jamel Johnson Sue Bird can kiss my ass. Because the thing about it is everybody’s like, oh, oh, it’s Sue Bird. Her name’s Sue, she’s like, Nice. She’s from Long Island. Her mom writes her like nice Post-its. No, she’s actually an asshole. And can go to hell. Some of the most disrespectful basketball I’ve ever seen in my life.
Jordan Ligons Yeah.
Jamel Johnson This. She’s like she goes into, like, this fucking Jimmy Butler mode where she’s just like, All right, I’m not even shooting today and then in fucking game two, a double double she went like six for ten from the field in the last one. The only reason it was a six for nine was because she shot a fucking Isaiah Thomas one legged buzzer beater three. They were already up 15. She was being a dickhead.
Jordan Ligons That is very Sue Bird. Ahead of Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird’s last game against each other, they did this video. And that’s the common misconception that people think Sue Bird is nice and Diana Taurasi is the asshole. But they confirmed that Sue Bird is indeed the asshole and Diana Taurasi is nice.
Jamel Johnson The post game. She was killing us in transition. Pull up three one dribble, pull up 19 footer, go to the rack, dish for the easy layup. Doing whatever she wanted ball on a string. Gapetto shit. And then in the fucking post game, she was like, You know, the Mystics are a pretty good defense, when they’re set. When they’re set, they’re hard to score against. Oh, you don’t say, oh, thanks. Thanks for the most backhanded compliment of all time, Susan.
Jason Concepcion She could go another year if she wanted.
Jamel Johnson I hope she doesn’t.
Jordan Ligons She could. Yeah.
Jamel Johnson I can’t watch this anymore.
Jordan Ligons That was going to be my question, because, like, where are you going to root for the Storm? Who now that your Mystics, which had a great season. You guys had a wonderful.
Jamel Johnson Yeah.
Jordan Ligons Wonderful season.
Jamel Johnson It was pretty good.
Jordan Ligons EDD was looking great in the postseason, looking like her old self. But who is your alliance with now that your Mystics are out?
Jamel Johnson Oh, oh, Vegas.
Jordan Ligons Oh, okay.
Jamel Johnson I hope Vegas beat Seattle by 1 million points. Yeah.
Jordan Ligons New World record.
Jason Concepcion The New World record.
Jamel Johnson That is a 1 million point deficit in two games. That is what I’m rooting for.
Jordan Ligons Honestly, if a team would do it, it would be Vegas like they’re scoring wild right now.
Jamel Johnson They’re the best team. And they’re also proving that Bill Laimbeer wasn’t the best coach.
Jordan Ligons Mmhmm.
Jamel Johnson And when he won, when he was with Detroit, I think it was a different league. So playing with that eighties NBA mentality made more sense because the game was slower. But coming to Vegas, it clearly it was between trying to go through Cambage or not letting Asia Wilson shoot threes ever.
Jordan Ligons As a team. They were the last in threes and they were one of the slowest teams on Bill Laimbeer was a coach. And if there’s a theme here, maybe former NBA players should not coach in the WNBA.
Jamel Johnson Yeah, I mean. Especially not now.It’s a different league, man. We’re playing for as soon as Becky Hammon comes in, she’s just like, Look, we’re shooting it.
Jordan Ligons Mm hmm.
Jamel Johnson Actually, excuse me. She’s coming with the new NBA mentality, and they look fantastic.
Jason Concepcion WNBA record 23 three pointers versus the Mercury. What has Becky come in and how has she transform this team?
Jamel Johnson Well, beside from wearing suit jackets with the hoodie, like.
Jordan Ligons Oh, they’re so bad. They are so bad.
Jason Concepcion That’s the brand though.
Jordan Ligons The worst part is that she did it. Everyone, I don’t know if we made fun of her for it, but we were like, Becky, what are you doing? And then now all the assistants match her. Every game.
Jamel Johnson Everyone looks like Miles Morales.
Jason Concepcion It’s business in the front, sports in the back. You know what I mean?
Jordan Ligons I don’t really don’t like it.
Jamel Johnson They got to win because if they don’t win.
Jordan Ligons That I will write 2000 words on why that was the reason they lost, if they don’t win.
Jamel Johnson Oh, man. I think her relationship with Kelsey Plum is is a big difference in the team as well.
Jordan Ligons I would also say with Chelsea Gray two really allowing Chelsea Gray, one of the best point guards in the W and one of the best of all time when it’s all said and done to be able to just have the freedom to be like I have a point guard fellow point guard in my corner and they talk about their relationship all the time. Becky Hammon doesn’t really coach her. She’s like, I let you run the offense as long as we are getting the quickest, best shot. That’s what I want. And it seems like everyone is flourishing with the trust that Becky seems to have in the players.
Jamel Johnson Less stress on Asia too, it seems like.
Jordan Ligons Yeah.
Jamel Johnson You know.
Jason Concepcion Can we get some predictions? Let’s get some predictions going here. Thoughts? Obviously this week you’ve got Sky looking to continue to assert themselves versus my New York Liberty after again, a historic crushing of the Liberty’s spirit, soul and body. Very tough to watch. And then, of course, Suns Wings game three on Wednesday.
Jamel Johnson Well I’m picking New York off rip, just because I picked them already. It’s already on wax. I already tweeted it so I would just stay down. I mean, because I. No. No. Why? Because I believe in Natasha Howard and Betnijah Laney over all else. And then you’ve got Sabrina willing to pass it to both of them whenever necessary. I’m rolling with the home team.
Jason Concepcion Mm hmm.
Jordan Ligons Okay, that’s a good one. I want to believe that the Chicago Sky will win, but we have to go back to game one with that incredible Marine Johanna’s over the head. No, look, pass. They did not score a point after that pass for 3 minutes at the end of the game. So if she does anything, if she just closes her eyes on a free throw or something, they won’t score for a whole have maybe. I don’t know. So I want to believe in the Sky. I feel like they’ve had a really great season. So I think it’s going to be close. But the Sky will pull it out. That’s my prediction.
Jamel Johnson It’s fair. It’s. It’s good. It could go either way. The Chicago. Chicago just looks bigger than them, too, you know?
Jordan Ligons Yeah.
Jamel Johnson There was just stretches where they just put the clamps. Sabrina couldn’t do anything. I don’t know, but I’m still rolling.
Jordan Ligons Okay, that’s fair.
Jason Concepcion And then Sun Wings. Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings.
Jamel Johnson The Miss Irrelevant Pageant. I think I have to say, I mean, the winner of this, it was getting served up. Honestly, this entire side of the bracket is getting served up. The winner of the title is the winner of Vegas-Seattle.
Jordan Ligons Yes, it is. That’s true.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, that’s true. I mean, that’s very true.
Jordan Ligons But, gosh.
Jamel Johnson I’m sorry. I didn’t mean too.
Jason Concepcion Put it like that.
Jamel Johnson I forgot that this was being recorded. And I you know, I love Connecticut.
Jordan Ligons Yeah.
Jamel Johnson I love Connecticut. They just keep, injuries got them again. They lost their starting point guard, like, two months ago.
Jordan Ligons Yeah. ACL, Connecticut is this, you know, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. As soon as the bright lights come on, they just fold. And that’s exactly what we saw in Game two and Dallas. I just looked up and they were wiping the floor with this Connecticut Sun team. But they did have a little bit of a comeback. They were down 30. They cut it to nine. I think then like they just ran out of time in that game. If there was more time, I think they would have come back and won. So if they build off of that momentum, I think Connecticut shows that they are the dominant team. Alyssa Thomas just yells at everyone every time they try to come in to the paint because she’s so scary. And that would work. I think that’s the defensive scheme that they go in.
Jamel Johnson Just get screamed on.
Jordan Ligons She’s I would run so far away if Alyssa Thomas was coming near me, I would just run out of the arena. I’d be like, you, you win. You win it all. She’s ferocious in that way.
Jamel Johnson Middle. Middle school bully vibes.
Jason Concepcion Jordan. Earlier in the pod, Jamel and I tried to indoctrinate you into into choosing an EPL team. So let me let me switch the question around. WNBA playoffs are cooking right now. We’re getting the closing act of Sue Bird’s legendary career. You have the Las Vegas Aces, one of the most star studded and talented teams we’ve seen in a while. What is if people were like, God, it seems like a good time to get on right now. Who do I throw my? Who do I throw my allegiance to? Who should people throw their allegiance to?
Jordan Ligons I think you hop on the bandwagon with the aces. It’s almost full, but you can make some room and make some room on the bandwagon. I You are going to have a great time watching the Aces. And this Aces- Storm series is you know, it has the star power with A’ja Wilson, who was my MVP of the season. You have Sue Bird, you have Breanna Stewart, you have Tina Charles on Seattle Storm. But you’re going to see why bases are still the better team. But it’s going to be fun. Like you never watch WNBA basketball before in your life. Tune in. I think the first game is on Sunday of that semifinals matchup you got to root for the Aces. They’re black and red. It’s a casino theme. They have a bunny as a mascot. It’s just a good time.
Jamel Johnson And the owner looks crazy as hell.
Jason Concepcion Jordan, thank you so much. Jamel, it is great to have you. And now Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal.
Jason Concepcion <A.D>.
Jason Concepcion On Thursday of last week that NFL came to an official decision on punishments for Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, who is the focus of several dozen sexual assault cases brought against him in recent years. When the NFL appealled the ruling, made by former federal Judge Sue L. Robinson, who initially suggested a six game suspension, the assumption was that Goodell was going to push for a yearlong suspension. Here to discuss this and any of the latest developments in this case, as Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal. Andrew, welcome.
Andrew Beaton Thanks so much for having me.
Jason Concepcion Andrew, based on your reporting, can you take us through how the NFL arrived at this decision, 11 games and a $5 million fine for Deshaun Watson?
Andrew Beaton Well, to take it back to the beginning, the NFL wanted to suspend him indefinitely for a period of time. That would be no shorter than one season. But, you know, one of the quirks of the new collective bargaining agreement and this was actually the first real personal conduct case under it, was that the initial decision didn’t land on Roger Goodell’s desk. This first went to an independent arbitrator who’s mutually picked by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. And what she found is, yes, she concluded Deshaun Watson engaged in behavior that she described as predatory and egregious. But she also found that based on the past precedent from NFL suspensions, that this merited a six game ban. That obviously led to a lot of outcries. You know, this was a really high profile player who is accused of numerous incidents of misconduct. And I think one of the things that added an extra level of stink to the situation, to a lot of the people, was that in some ways it seemed like he was rewarded for it. He was able to get the trade that he wanted. He got a groundbreaking five year, $230 million contract from the Browns. And that contract also is structured in ways that if he’s suspended for part of the year, he’d basically pay no financial penalty. That seemed like, all right, this guy got the trade he wanted, he got the money he wanted, and a pretty short suspension. But the NFL had the right to appeal that suspension. And under the way that appeal works, they were able to put the thumb on the scales as much as they wanted because Goodell could hear the appeal himself or he could handpick someone. He hand-picked Peter Harvey, who is a former attorney general from New Jersey, very credible. And that sort of set the stage for, all right, the NFL handpicked this guy. They can probably get what they want, which was the yearlong deal. There was also going to be kind of ugly for the league because then the league is sort of going above and beyond the process and obviously tilting the scales. And it could have led to a lawsuit and this whole thing lasting way longer or, you know, we’ve seen guys ranging from Tom Brady to Ezkiel Elliott at least try in the courts to get these things overturned. And even if it doesn’t work, it makes these things last much longer and get much uglier. And so eventually, you know, we were all expecting that decision to come in, but there was increased chatter that maybe it’s beneficial for both sides to get in for a settlement. And that’s what they did. And so the NFL didn’t get what it wanted in terms of the yearlong suspension. It was still a longer suspension than they originally got from the arbitrator. And sort of like any settlement, both sides probably leaveing a little bit unhappy.
Jordan Ligons Yeah, I guess that was going to be my next question. What has been the reaction to this decision? It is extra five extra games and a fine on top of the original one. But does that achieve the NFL’s goal or does it still fall short in public opinion? Because you guys couldn’t hear my eyes rolling as you were talking, but they were very loud.
Andrew Beaton Yeah, I think there’s a little bit of both, right. You know, there is some credit for, you know, progress for the NFL in that they were able to get a longer suspension, which has implications not just on this case, but one going forward, because as the arbitrator initially ruled, the length she decided was based on precedent. Now those goalposts have moved. This is a longer suspension than has been handed out in the past. So the NFL was able to successfully move those goalposts. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of people who look at the breadth of the allegations and also the tone Deshaun Watson had struck, especially in the days since, and say, you know, if feels like this should have been longer.
Jason Concepcion Let’s talk about precedent as the kind of, you know, standard by which Judge Sue Robinson made her ruling. It’s like if we go to the moon and I steal your wallet on the moon and then you’re talking to me about precedent but we’re in like, we’re on the moon. We’re in, you know, new territory here. We’re talking like dozens of other victims. Twenty-four civil lawsuits, one of which is still active. Horrendous allegations. How? It seems weird to me to land on precedent as a basis for making a judgment when we are talking about a case here that is horrifyingly unique.
Andrew Beaton Yeah. And I think the other thing that the NFL and I think the sports world in general has had to reckon with in terms of precedent is that I think the world in it’s not going to shock anybody to say that the world in 2022 is a lot different than it was in 2015, 2010 to 2005 go on and so forth. And so there’s a lot more cultural sensitivities to these issues, a lot more understanding of the importance of taking these things extremely seriously. One of the things that’s really thorny is that there have been these precedents, there are these collectively bargained agreements. But we also know that the times are changing and they have changed. And we’re looking at a world where Major League Baseball has tried to suspend Trevor Bauer for two years. Right. This is a different landscape than when players such as, say, Ben Roethlisberger got pretty short suspensions for pretty ugly allegations. And when people say, well, this is what a guy like Ben Roethlisberger got years ago, I think if the same case were handled in 2022, we’d all be expecting a much longer ban.
Jordan Ligons And I think we’re just we think of the NFL, we just think of the league as I know personally, I’m not a huge fan of the NFL because of this system that continues over and over to not really punish men for disrespecting women. And I think in that sense, does the league understand the significance of the decision and the culture that is kind of allowed to exist by failing to truly punish stars for their misconduct?
Andrew Beaton You know, I think it’s something that they really have started to understand, especially lately. I mean, this is a league that was pushing for indefinite suspension for it to last no shorter than a season. You know, if you said that the NFL wanted to suspend one of its highest profile players, one of its brightest young stars indefinitely, I think a few years ago, we wouldn’t have really expected that or considered that. And so there has definitely been some evolution there. But it’s complicated. You know, a lot of these things, as much as it’s football, also boil down to weird labor dynamics and things that we see with, I don’t know, police unions or any other union in the world. These are or people on the one hand who are trying to protect their workforce and what has been collectively bargain between union, you know, the workforce and management. And there’s just so many different factors about who controls what. And because, you know, we can even go back in the day and when if this were up to the league, he would have been gone for a year. But then when it was all in Roger Goodell’s hands, there’s a process that I think looked really heavy handed and draconian. And so I think we’re at a moment when the league definitely recognizes the importance of taking these things seriously, but it’s about how to navigate these new waters.
Jason Concepcion What about what about the Browns, whose decision to sign Watson to a historic deal, in many ways kind of crystallized the formulation that I think the NFL has kind of been built on certainly in recent years, which is there’s certain distractions that we’re not going to stand for. But when it comes to, you know, acquiring players, we’re just going to do it. Everything else be damned because particularly quarterback, that’s the rarest position in sports. And so we’re going to do everything we can to win because we think that winning drowns out everything else. What’s been the reaction to the Browns decision and any kind of reaction within the organization regarding this ruling?
Andrew Beaton You know, I think from the people outside looking in, there’s been a lot of eye rolling because there was that sense that they rewarded him for this entire situation by trading f or him, by giving him that contract. But I think one of the things that is so queasy about this situation and others is it’s not difficult to look at these teams and see how in a weird, terrible, stomach churning way they can profit off the inefficiency that comes with the stink of these situations. You know, oh, they’re able to get Deshaun Watson, a player who might not otherwise be available in a situation like this. You know, are players like Tyreek Hill, who was an absolutely fantastic player but fell in the NFL draft because of what he was accused of in college. And then all of a sudden, the Chiefs are the team that’s willing to take him late and they get a player who’s one of the best receiver in the NFL. Then that stink fades and they’re able to trade him for a lot to the Miami Dolphins after winning a Super Bowl with him. And there’s these situations where teams are able to, if they have a strong enough stomach to endure the backlash and maybe get through the backlash to the point where maybe they hope their fans just care about the points on the scoreboard, that this can be as crazy as it sounds, something you think about team building.
Jordan Ligons Yeah. I want to touch on that more, too, because the fans because I don’t think there’s a coincidence that the first game back for Watson is against his former team, the Houston Texans, on December 4th. Will Cleveland Brown fans kind of welcome him back on the field with open arms, or will the public remember why he missed those first 11 games in the first place? What do you think the fans will kind of react when he comes back?
Andrew Beaton I think it’ll be a pretty mixed reaction at first. You know, I’ve definitely talked to Browns fans who have said, I don’t know how I can turn on the game and feel good about it this year when he’s back, I’ve heard from. But it doesn’t take long searching on Twitter to find some Browns fans. And this is a fan base that is pretty tired of losing. It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find like, oh, this, you know, innocent until proven guilty. You get a lot of breathless arguments about that. And so I think it’ll be pretty mixed at first. But I think the interesting thing will be to say, see, not what the reaction is on day one or day two, but if and when this team is in a playoff game with DeShawn Watson and he’s playing as well as we’ve seen him play in the past, does that convert a lot of the people who just throw up their arms and say, boy, it’s been a long time since the Browns are winning and this is awesome. I mean, we’ve seen in the past how people can get over these things and just start watching what’s on the field. And I wouldn’t be shocked if whether it’s this year or next year or years after that, if he plays well enough that he helps make people forget.
Jason Concepcion Let’s zoom out for a second. The NFL has endured many, many crises over the last decade, decade and a half, including the numerous incidents related to various star players, including the various effects of their covering up of the concussion crisis within the sport. And yet this is this is a league that is marching on to immense, immense, except where we’re coming off of what was, I think you could say, the most entertaining postseason like certainly in memory that the NFL has had recently. This is a sport that whenever their next contract comes up, it’s going to be in their multiple billions of dollars. I guess what I’m saying is, how have they managed to just kind of like roll over all of these things, you know, even something like concussions, which seemed existential for a while, you know, not in the sense that, oh the league is done, but in the sense that, oh, in ten, 20 years, 15 years, you’ll see support fade. You’ll see that pipeline kind of slow as parents decline to put their kids into peewee football, etc. That seemed existential. And now it’s not. It doesn’t it’s kind of a thing that you know about that you just kind of move on past. How is the league managed to do this?
Andrew Beaton I mean, I think more than any year, 2022 is crystallized that right. I mean, just take everything that’s gone on since we last saw a competitive, meaningful NFL game. Right. We’ve had one owner to have to testify in front of Congress. We’ve had to have the commissioner testimony to Congress. We’ve had another owner, Stephen Ross, suspended by the league because of tampering with none other than Tom Brady. Then we have this entire Deshaun Watson saga playing over at over the course of days, weeks and months. And so it seems like there’s more going on off the field that would explode your head than ever. On the other hand, as you said, these last playoffs were thrilling. I mean, it’s not hard to turn on to a game and be obsessed with a new quarterback and player. It sort of exposes the dueling tensions of football more than ever these days because there’s a lot that people should be asking serious, important questions about. But it’s also really hard not to be entertained by the product that they end up putting on the field every Sunday. In a lot of ways, their strategy, which is, you know, try and get through all these crises as quick as possible. And then people on Sunday are going to return to just watching the game they loved.
Jordan Ligons Yeah, exactly. That was going to be my word. Exactly. Yikes, you’re not wrong. You’re not wrong.
Jason Concepcion Yeah. And by the way, Andrew, you’re not wrong. You’re not wrong. And I don’t think the NFL is wrong either. He is Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal. Andrew, as always, thank you for joining us.
Jordan Ligons Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew Beaton Love being on.
Jason Concepcion Folks. That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Wherever you get your podcasts, don’t forget to check out my other Crooked’s podcast X-Ray Vision, where we talk about all the nerd shows and stuff going on, including the recently premiered. House of the Dragon on HBO Max. Check it out. Bye. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Engineering, editing and sound design by the great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter Four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kelman is on the Zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.