The NFL is seeking a tougher penalty under the league's personal conduct policy in the wake of disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson's ruling Monday. Under the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell had the option to consider the appeal himself or to appoint a designee.
The league is appealing for an indefinite suspension that would be a minimum of one year (as it had previously sought), a source told ESPN, as well as a monetary fine (which Watson was not levied by Robinson) and treatment that the star quarterback must undergo.
"The NFL's appeal addresses whether, based on the findings made by Judge Robinson, the discipline should be modified to include a professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine, and a longer suspension," the league said in a statement.
Harvey works now as a partner at the Patterson Belknap firm in New York. He has also served as a federal prosecutor and is a member of the NFL's diversity advisory committee.
In noting his qualifications, the league said Harvey "has deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault, and has advised the NFL and other professional leagues on the development and implementation of workplace policies, including the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy."
Harvey has served as Goodell's designee in other arbitrations. In 2017, Harvey was one of four members of an expert panel that reviewed the league's domestic violence investigation into Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended six games for violating the conduct policy.
There is no timeline for when Harvey will hear the appeal. According to the league's personal conduct policy, it must be done on an expedited basis.
Watson has been accused of sexual assault and other inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. The encounters alleged in the lawsuits took place from March 2020 to March 2021, while Watson was a member of the Houston Texans.
In issuing the six-game suspension, Robinson wrote that "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."
However, in imposing the suspension, Robinson pointed out flaws in the league's guidelines for player misconduct, which limited her authority to penalize him.
While relying on precedent, Robinson sought to differentiate between violent and nonviolent sexual conduct. Robinson concluded that Watson's conduct "does not fall into the category of violent conduct that would require the minimum six-game suspension" the league had established as "by far the most commonly-imposed discipline for domestic or gendered violence and sexual acts."
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round draft picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract that was the richest deal in NFL history for any player.
ESPN's Jake Trotter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.