The Houston Texans have reached confidential deals with 30 women who have accused former team quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct.
The NFL club has been accused of enabling Watson by allegedly ignoring his behavior and securing him membership at a local hotel and club where he allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted female massage therapists.
Watson, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, has settled 20 of the 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits he faces for allegedly molesting and sexually assaulting massage therapists between 2019 and 2020 while he was playing for the Texans. The other four lawsuits are expected to go to trial in 2023, and Watson is still waiting to hear his fate from an independent umpire who has the right to suspend him under the NFL’s personal conduct policy, though he has not been charged. let alone convicted of any crime.
One of his accusers, Toi Garner, filed a lawsuit against the Texans in June, which plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee said at the time was the first of many. Before those lawsuits could be filed, however, the team reached a settlement with the 24 plaintiffs and six other unidentified women who have indicated their intention to bring claims against the Texas organization.
“We were shocked and deeply saddened when we first learned of the allegations against our then-franchise quarterback in March 2021,” the McNair family, who own the team, said in a statement.
“Although our organization was not aware of Deshaun Watson’s alleged wrongdoing, we made a conscious decision to resolve this matter amicably. This is not an admission of wrongdoing, but a clear stand against all forms of sexual assault and misconduct.”
In his statement, Buzbee said Garner’s lawsuit would be dismissed with prejudice “once the relevant settlement filings are complete.”
“I will not comment further on the allegations or the alleged role of the Texans other than to say that there is a distinct difference between the way the Texans have addressed these allegations and the way Watson’s team has done so has,” Buzbee said in the statement.
The New York Times reported in June that Watson booked dates with at least 66 different women over a 17-month period while playing for the Texans. Previously, Watson attorney Rusty Hardin estimated that he had appointments with about 40 massage therapists in his five seasons with the Texans.
Not every woman has accused Watson of sexual misconduct, and 15 have made statements of support for him at the request of his attorney.
After the Times article was published, the Texans were included as defendants in the sexual misconduct lawsuits for allegedly facilitating the massages. The NFL club has been accused of securing Watson a membership at a local hotel and private club, the Houstonian, where some of the massages are said to have taken place.
A woman who massaged Watson at the hotel but is not named in the article told the Times that she was told the room they used was “registered with a member of the Texan training staff.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the NFL is seeking an indefinite ban that would prevent Watson from being reinstated within the next 12 months. An NFL spokesman did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for confirmation.
In March, Watson signed a five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns, who acquired him in a trade with the Houston Texans, after two grand juries declined to indict him on sexual misconduct complaints.
Watson, 26, recently settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he is facing in Texas over a variety of allegations of sexual misconduct by masseuses, including allegations that he forced two women to perform oral sex on him and others with his penis violently touched private sessions. Specific dollar figures for the comparisons were not disclosed.
Watson has denied the allegations, which allegedly took place over 17 months from fall 2019 to spring 2021 when Watson played for the Texans.
The hearing is the first under the NFL’s updated Personal Conduct Policy to place the original decision in the hands of an independent adjudicator. The officer in this case is former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, who the NFL and players’ union have settled on, according to the Journal.
It remains unclear when Robinson will issue her sentence, but whatever it is, both sides have the right to appeal.
By suspending Watson indefinitely, the NFL could give itself more flexibility to increase his sentence if more allegations surface in the coming months.
According to the Journal, the league’s case includes all 24 lawsuits (four of which are pending), but primarily focuses on five cases that offer the most compelling evidence against the former Clemson star.
As well as the suspension, Watson could also potentially face a fine, which would ensure he would pay a substantial fine in the event of a suspension. Otherwise, Watson’s repurchased $230 million contract would protect him from a hefty financial loss.
Watson is scheduled to be paid just $1 million in 2022 if he could face a possible suspension, with an additional $46 million annually in each of the final four years of the contract.
If Watson gets suspended this season, he’ll lose about $60,000 per missed game that way. For comparison, if his contract were structured evenly over the next five years, he would lose more than $2 million for every game he bans.
That’s a discrepancy of about $33 million.