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As the Cleveland Browns attempt to navigate the controversy surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson and the length of time he’ll be suspended, a potential new controversy looms.
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) will host its annual convention in Cleveland from August 24-27. Watson was suspended for six games on Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The suspension follows 24 lawsuits accusing Watson of sexual misconduct during massage therapy appointments.
The NFL has appealed the decision by independent disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, reportedly seeking a year-long suspension for the three-time Pro Bowl selection.
In a statement, the AMTA had harsh words for the “relatively light punishment” handed down to Watson.
“Massage therapists should never have to tolerate conduct outside the bounds of therapeutic massage therapy within a massage session,” the AMTA said in a statement.
“AMTA strongly believes that any client who steps over the line to inappropriate touch should face the legal consequences. And it’s disappointing to see such a relatively light punishment from the NFL levied toward Deshaun Watson in their findings of his violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.
“If the NFL is concerned about professionalism and upholding high standards in the league, creating a safe workplace for all members of athletes’ care teams should be a priority. We hope the league is taking measures to ensure that the massage therapists on the Browns’ personnel and throughout the NFL, as well as those supporting individual athletes, are able to work in a safe and professional environment.”
Watson has denied any wrongdoing and has settled with 23 of his 24 accusers.
“Massage therapists work every day to help clients ease pain, discomfort, stress and manage medical conditions, making a meaningful difference for their clients, especially for the millions of Americans struggling with chronic pain,” Michaele Colizza, AMTA’s national president, said. “Massage is and always should be about health and well-being in a safe environment whether for an athlete or any other client.”
The Browns open their preseason schedule against the Jacksonville Jaguars Aug. 12.