CLEVELAND — Robyn Lockner has been a lifelong Browns fan, so much so that she even runs a Facebook group dedicated to giving female fans a place to talk about and cheer on the team.
The group, called Cleveland Browns Women’s Group, boasts over 6,000 fans. Lockner said she started it because she saw women dealing with “disrespect” and “name calling” in other Browns fan groups.
“There’s one thing we are, and that’s the most loyal fanbase that there is in the NFL,” she said.
As a loyal fan, she’s been following the news of Deshaun Watson coming to Cleveland closely from the start.
“I think when the news first broke that we were signing him, a lot of women were totally against it,” she said. “For me personally, it was because of the baggage that he brought into the city of Cleveland and along with him for the team. After reading all the depositions and things to that nature, I’ve kind of seen things from a different perspective.”
Lockner said she read all the depositions related to the Watson cases and allegations to draw her own conclusions and help answer questions from other women in the Facebook group.
“I didn’t believe all of the women that made those accusations against him, I think four maybe were credible in my opinion after reading all the depositions and everything on both sides,” she said. “I think it’s a shame if these women actually believe that he violated them in any type of way that they would settle for money, which kind of puts more doubt for me that it actually occurred.”
Lockner said that her Facebook group has lost members since Watson joined the team, but it has also gained new members. Despite her views on the allegations, she said she understands those who may no longer be fans.
“I understand the women who left. Some of them were sexual assault victims, so I totally get why they couldn’t back the team,” she said. “I think it’s really sad because a lot of them grew up Browns fans as well, their fathers, their grandfathers, that’s how they became a fan of the team. But I so understand where they came from if they were sexually assaulted and can no longer support the team.”
For fellow lifelong fan Tina Mendolera, who is also a member of the Cleveland Browns Women’s Group, “one player does not make the team.”
“As a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, I root for the front of the shirt, not for the back of the shirt,” she said.
Mendolera said if it were up to her, Watson would face a four game suspension, rather than a six game suspension. She said that personally, she was excited to get Watson in the hopes of advancing further in the season.
“Me myself, I am a domestic violence survivor and you just have to let all the facts come out as they be,” she said. “I believe that there was some inappropriate behavior, I don’t believe everything that was said.”
Even with Watson out for the first six games of the season, Mendolera said she still believes the team can win four or five of those initial games.
“I have enough faith in this team to just, you know, march on,” she said.
For the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the decision came as a disappointment.
“The six game suspension given dangerously mirrors the flaws in our criminal justice system and sends a message to the communities that far too often those in positions of power or celebrity who commit violence against others are not held accountable for their actions,” said Donisha Greene, Director of Community Engagement at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
The mission of the center is to eliminate sexual violence, support survivors, and promote healing and prevention, according to Greene.
Since the news that Watson was potentially joining the Browns, Greene said they have received a “huge” response from the community.”
“Our donations, our calls to the hotline have gone up,” she said. “We know that for survivors of sexual assault and violence, this story means something to them.”
According to Greene, justice can come in many forms for victims and survivors of sexual assault. Greene also shared the difficulties of prosecuting sexual assault and rape cases, especially in situations without physical evidence or witnesses, and said the criminal justice system is flawed.
“We know that far too often violence against women is normalized in our society,” she said. “What this story does is it further perpetuates the pattern where we shift the blame from perpetrator to victim and this is not ok.”
For more information on the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and resources available, click here.
More coverage of Deshaun Watson suspension:
- ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio discusses Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson's suspension with 3News' Jim Donovan
- Social media reacts to Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson receiving 6-game suspension
- NFL weighing potential appeal on Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson's suspension
- Deshaun Watson suspension: These are the 6 games he will miss as Cleveland Browns QB