NFL Countdown host Sam Ponder was brought to tears Sunday morning while discussing Deshaun Watson’s return after dozens of women accused him of sexual assault and misconduct.
“There have been star quarterbacks accused of criminal behavior before, accused of inappropriate acts, but not like this. This isn’t he said she said, it’s he said they all said,” Ponder began before calling Watson’s alleged abuse “a sinister, planned, and habitual strategy to isolate and sexually abuse relatively powerless women.”
Ponder spoke about her personal encounters with Watson, admitting that initially, she didn’t believe the allegations against someone she considered to be a kind, humble and loving person. “But as is always the case, those genuine feelings are judicially irrelevant because I have absolutely no clue what this man has done in private,” she continued. “I don’t know how he treats women when no one else is around and none of us do.”
Ponder went on to slam the Browns for attempting to make Watson out to be a sympathetic figure after giving him a contract worth $230 million guaranteed.
“We have a clear, but uncomfortable choice to make, one the Cleveland Browns already made with their money. Is he a conniving predator or a sympathetic victim?” Ponder asked through tears. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing, or prey to manipulative liars who only see double dollar signs? Are we privileged enough to not really have to think about it? Unaffected enough to just move on and cheer as long as he serves his purpose to win games and generate profit? Right.
“He missed 11 weeks and paid a fine. He has not been convicted of anything and he vehemently maintained his innocence. But he also apologized to the women he impacted. This isn’t about admitting mistakes and promising to do better. We’re all flawed and we shouldn’t require more out of a ballplayer than we do ourselves. But this is about whether or not Deshaun Watson is a serial sexual abuser.”
Ponder’s monologue followed Adam Schefter on Sunday NFL Countdown, who commented on Watson’s treatment program. Just hours earlier, Schefter published an article for ESPN where he put his journalistic integrity on the line to write what read as a PR piece for the embattled quarterback.
Ponder, however, refused to join her colleague as a shill for the NFL. Instead, she chose to offer a much more ethical and raw assessment of Watson’s return.