The NHL suspended Nashville Predators player Austin Watson for multiple games without pay after concluding an investigation into a domestic violence incident against his girlfriend in June, the league announced on Wednesday.
“I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement published to the NHL’s website. “Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly held view that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct.”
Watson will miss the entirety of the league’s preseason and the first 27 of the regular season, making him eligible to return for Nashville’s game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 3. According to ESPN, the NHL Players’ Association plans to file an appeal of the suspension.
It was on June 16 that Watson was arrested by the Franklin Police Department on suspicion of assault after a witness called an officer to report Watson pushing his girlfriend at a gas station, as detailed by the Tennessean. Police noted that Watson’s girlfriend — with whom he shares an infant — had red marks on her chest. She reportedly told officers that the NHL player sometimes “gets handsy” with her.
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The department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
In July, the 26-year-old forward pleaded no contest to a domestic assault charge and received three-month probation, the Washington Post reports, which includes 26 weeks of a batterer intervention course and a treatment program for drugs and alcohol.
Watson was one of four Predator players to participate in a public service campaign last year addressing domestic violence, the Tennessean reported. The messages were made as a part of the YWCA’s AMEND Together program, which was initiated to educate men on how they can help stop violence against women and children. In their video, Watson appeared with yellow tape over his mouth that made an “x.” While the original video was taken down, it can still be seen here.
In a statement, the Predators addressed the investigation and Watson’s subsequent suspension.
“The Nashville Predators supported and worked closely with the National Hockey League investigation regarding Austin Watson,” the team said.
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“During his suspension, we wish Austin, Jenn and their baby the best as they take the necessary steps to move forward, with the support of the Nashville Predators, the NHL, the NHLPA, and all the collective resources they can provide.”
Out of the four largest North American sports leagues, the NHL is the only one that does not have a distinct policy surrounding domestic violence, reported Deadspin.