Watson’s return, and his cover, comes as the NFL faces intense scrutiny for its treatment of women. Washington commanders face at least six open investigations into widespread sexual harassment and abuse in the organization, and this spring six attorneys general warned NFL headquarters to improve how it works. treat employees.
Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said the NFL has provided “no direction” to its network partners, including NFL Network, on how to cover Watson’s return. Much of the coverage reflected how the NFL, the Browns, the Texans and Watson himself wanted football fans to think about it: At the turn of the page, moving from the serious accusations against Watson to his new role in as a Browns franchise strategist. When NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported last week that Watson was reinstated, he concluded, “So that means it’s officially over.”
Still, much about Watson’s situation remains unresolved. He still faces two lawsuits accusing him of lewd and coercive behavior during massage appointments, having settled 23 others this summer; he must continue to comply with the treatment program which was a condition of his reinstatement from his suspension; and the last time he addressed the charges against him directly, in August, he insisted on his innocence and said the public was not interested in his side of the story.
Although each network covered the occasion differently, they had much in common in what they left out. Other than an ESPN “Outside the Lines” segment that aired last week, it emerged that none of the major networks used any footage during NFL programming of either of Ashley’s two press conferences. Solis, the first licensed massage therapist to publicly accuse Watson of sexual misconduct. Also missing was the mention that the Texans, the Browns’ Sunday opponent, had reached deals with 30 of Watson’s accusers after The Times reported that the team had provided the venue for some of the fixtures as well as a non-disclosure agreement which Watson had given to some. women. The coverage also did not detail the conclusion of the retired judge who oversaw Watson’s NFL disciplinary hearing that Watson had engaged in ‘predatory’ behavior that was ‘more egregious than any before. reviewed by the NFL”.
Stripping out the details of the charges, especially the day Watson returned from a consequential suspension, can “make what happened less serious,” said Meenakshi Gigi Durham, a journalism professor at the University of ‘Iowa.
“It’s extremely important how the media covers the story, and also how the institution itself, the NFL, how they treat it,” said Durham, author of the book “MeToo: The Impact of Rape Culture”. in the media.” She added, “Because the broader message that is sent about sexual assault and sexual violence in general is kind of dependent on how it is addressed in public discourse.”
Watson made it clear in the days leading up to his return that he would not address the controversy directly. At his first press conference after his reinstatement, he said he had been instructed by his clinical and legal advisers only to answer football-related questions. The Browns’ official channels, including the team’s website and team-sponsored radio show with coach Kevin Stefanski, also stuck to football, referring to Watson’s suspension without any mention. of the reasons he was disciplined.