HOUSTON -- Attorney Tony Buzbee and Ashley Solis criticized the NFL on Thursday for the initial ruling on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's discipline for violating the league's personal conduct policy after accusations of sexual misconduct.
Buzbee and Solis, the first woman to sue Watson and the first to go public with her name and story, held a news conference at Chase Tower Center in Houston. Buzbee couldn't speak on the 30 settlements between his clients and the Houston Texans for the franchise's role in the allegations, but he and Solis criticized the six-game suspension that disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson handed Watson on Monday.
"What the actions of the NFL state to little girls who have suffered at the hands of someone perceived to have power is that it's not a big deal," Solis said. "That they don't care. Tough s---. That's what I've taken from their actions."
In the midst of the civil lawsuit, Solis says the entire process was "emotionally and mentally taxing." She also said that she has "received multiple death threats" and that "angry people approached her in public."
Buzbee expected Watson's initial suspension to be light, but in the wake of the ruling, he was still frustrated with the decision from Robinson.
"We never expected much from the NFL investigation. We never expected much from their flawed process," Buzbee said. "But even when you know you're going to be slapped in the face? That slap still hurts, and it still stings. When we received the results of the NFL's process, I asked each of the clients to weigh in. I tried to talk to each one and say what were your thoughts on what happened ... 'Six games isn't even a slap on the wrist. It's a kiss on the cheek.'"
On Monday, Robinson provided a 16-page report explaining why she issued a six-game suspension, stating "the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the Report."
The NFL appealed Robinson's ruling of the six-game suspension on Wednesday as the league is aggressively trying to secure a stronger suspension of a full year for Watson.
The NFL Players Association was notified that the NFL was going to appeal the initial ruling before the league filed its brief Wednesday.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, to hear the appeal of the disciplinary decision involving Watson.
Watson's camp and the NFLPA have until the end of Friday to submit their response to the NFL's appeal brief. Then a ruling from the league will follow.
Buzbee ended his news conference with hopes that the NFL will come down with a stronger punishment.
"We are here today with a message to the NFL. That message is central and hopefully clear. Every victim of sexual assault is watching Roger Goodell and the NFL right now," Buzbee said. "And this idea that Mr. Goodell is going to hand it off to someone else independent, we don't buy it. Mr. Goodell, what will you do? It's never too late to do the right thing. That's what these women and those watching are expecting."