IDIOT OF THE YEAR No. 6: Cleveland Browns and fans

The franchise and its supporters could not have emerged from Deshaun Watson crisis looking any worse

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Illustration: Twitter

It feels like we’ve spent all year, or at least a significant portion of it, talking about how terrible Cleveland Browns fans have been. Pre their team’s signing of quarterback Deshaun Watson, we were all able to laugh at their fans as loveable, delusional losers who thought they were going to get to the top of the mountain with Baker Mayfield. They weren’t as harmless as, say, Chargers or Seahawks fans, but they weren’t going to hurl battery-laden snowballs at Santa Claus, either.

Fast forward to 2022 and an abomination of a press conference, wherein Browns owner Jimmy Haslam stated his belief that Watson was deserving of a “second chance,” even though he at that point (still?) had not taken any responsibility whatsoever for the veritable cornucopia of sexual assault allegations against him. (Here’s the part where I legally have to tell you that Watson has denied all allegations against him.) It was that day that Haslam gave his fan base free rein to embrace Watson and all the baggage that came with him, saying pretty much what everyone knew — sure, Watson was accused of some truly odious behavior. BUT he was also a star quarterback in the National Football League. There is nothing a pro athlete can’t get away with if he’s good enough.

After serving an 11-game suspension levied by the league, here’s where Browns fans stand today:

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Oh, and in case you, a typical Cleveland Browns fan who does not support sexual assault in any way, are getting ready to hit “send” on that email, yelling “nOt aLL bROwNs fANs!” at us, let’s not pretend these virulent misogynist takes are a one-off:

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There are plenty of fans in those pics, plenty of fans laughing, ignoring, and, most notably, not objecting to what’s going on around them. And there are lots more examples of where these came from. It seems every week more of these images pop up. Even Pittsburgh didn’t lean into Ben Roethlisberger this hard. NFL fans are known for excusing a lot of bad behavior by their teams, but “We don’t care if our QB (allegedly) sexually assaults unsuspecting women” seems like a little much, even for the NFL. But hey, keep running those “No More” commercials during the Super Bowl, Rog!

There’s plenty of blame to go around on this one: The NFL, for being afraid to suspend one of its stars for an entire season or more, Jimmy Haslam, for his naked cynicism in bringing Watson to Cleveland, and the fans, for embracing the entire circus. But the fans are the true object of the ire of the Idiots of the Year Academy, because not a single one of you has to do this. You could have, and should have pushed back against your owner. You could have refused to buy Browns merchandise. You could have, SHOULD have put management in the awkward position of having to explain to fans why they had to have an accused of sexual misconduct by more than 30 women on their team. There is literally nothing in this for you. Look:

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You sold your souls for nothing.