By Avery Strychasz, staff writer
Hi, my name is Avery Strychasz, and I am a Cleveland Browns Fan. You can laugh now.
Born and raised in Cleveland, the love of orange and brown has been ingrained in me since before I can remember. With a face only a mother could love, the Browns fanbase is somewhat of a legend in NFL lore — parallel to that of the Buffalo Bills, the Detroit Lions or even the Bengals pre-2021. Somehow even after the constant letdown of loss or even a straight 0-16 season, I still wore my Dawg Pound pride — that is, until today.
I’m going to level with you here: I really didn’t care about football until recently. I couldn’t talk my way through an end zone or a tight end, and I really could not have cared less about fantasy football or playoffs. I watched the Super Bowl for the commercials and generally thought football was a waste of time. It wasn’t until I saw the impact that the love of football could have on a community that I began to care about that weird, ovular ball.
The feeling of community is perhaps no better explained than with my beloved Brownies. Not only is it a conversation starter in the CLE, but the Browns have a verified presence in youth development programs. Visiting schools every other week, letting kids come to practice, donating large sums of money to youth sports programs and regularly attending sessions at the local children’s hospital — the Browns stand for more than just their touchdown record.
Therefore, I am finding it difficult to reconcile the recent decision made by my hometown team. For folks that would rather keep up with the Kardashians than the NFL, the Browns made the decision to pursue and obtain Deshaun Watson as their backup quarterback for the grand ole’ sum of $230 million for five years.
You may be asking why this is such a big deal. Other than the gross amount of money spent on sports, Watson was tried for 22 counts of sexual assault and sexual misconduct against a grand jury. Ultimately, he was not convicted criminally but is still being sued civilly for damages for the women involved. Watson is also facing a suspension from the NFL for up to eight games.
Let that sink in. Twenty-two charges. Twenty-two women. Twenty-two lives. Twenty-two reasons why he shouldn’t be playing football.
According to reports from the Browns’ head office, they did extensive research on Watson’s case. They stated that “his dedication to being a great teammate and devotion to helping others within the NFL… (and) community” was what ultimately led them to find peace with their decision.
And I am glad the Browns office can find peace with this — really, I am — because they will have to work tirelessly day in and day out to fix the sentiment they have sent into the world: “Character does not count as long as you can win.”
In all fairness, the Cleveland Browns didn’t come up with this mentality. The NFL has quietly perpetuated this mantra for years with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and over 44 other players who have been accused, charged or acquitted of charges related to sexual assault or harassment against women.
Prior to Watson, however, these cases only had a maximum of four charges. It has taken a case with 22 women to bring national scrutiny to this organization. That alone doesn’t sit well with me, and it shouldn’t with you either.
I am urging you — regardless of gender or team affiliation — to examine these individuals to whom we give our attention so freely and ask: “Can I support a bad leader for a good outcome?” If you find yourself answering no, then you can understand why I must hang up my Browns hat and fight for what I believe is right.