Monday, August 15, 2022

Deshaun Watson allegations: Texans settle claims with 30 of Browns QB’s accusers

Last month, the lawsuits against Deshaun Watson were seemingly growing by the day. The quarterback has since settled 20 of the 24 outstanding cases, while an NFL probe into the matter continues. 

But Watson was not the only one involved in litigation. In late June, a suit was filed against the Houston Texans, Watson’s former employer, alleging the organization “turned a blind eye” and “enabled Watson’s egregious behavior.” At the time, attorney Tony Buzbee — who represents the plaintiffs in these cases — indicated that additional women intended to join the suit, making similar allegations.

On Friday, the claims of 30 women against the Texans were settled, according Buzbee, who released the following statement regarding the settlements: 

“Today all of the women who have made, or intended to make, claims against the Houston Texans organization have resolved their claims. The terms of the settlements, to include the amounts paid each, are confidential. I will have no further comment on the allegations or the Texans’ alleged role, other than to say that there is a marked contrast in the way in which the Texans addressed these allegations, and the way in which Watson’s team has done so. As has been previously reported, only one of the thirty women who made allegations against the Texans filed a formal lawsuit. That particular lawsuit will be dismissed with prejudice as soon as the appropriate settlement paperwork is complete.

It takes an incredible amount of fortitude for a victim of sexual misconduct to come forward. It is even more difficult when the alleged wrongdoer is famous, rich or powerful. As I’ve said before, these cases started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman: Ashley Solis. Because of her willingness to speak out, soon others followed. I admire Ashley Solis and the other women who were courageous enough to make their voices heard. I hope their bravery serves as an example to others who have been subjected to similar conduct. Every story has a hero—in this story that hero is Ashley Solis and the other women who, despite the ridicule, criticism, and vitriol directed at them, endured.

The four filed cases against Deshaun Watson will continue. We hope to try them all in the spring of next year. In the mean-time we will continue to do the important work to prepare for such.”

Texans owners Janice, Hannah, and Cal McNair released a statement of their own: 

“We were shocked and deeply saddened when we first learned of the allegations against our then franchise quarterback in March 2021.

Although our organization did not have any knowledge of Deshaun Watson’s alleged misconduct, we have intentionally chosen to resolve this matter amicably. This is not an admission of any wrongdoing, but instead a clear stand against any for of sexual assault and misconduct.

We hope that today’s resolution will provide some form of closure to the parties involved, our fans and the Houston community at large. As an organization, we will now turn our focus to the future and doing what we can to ensure respect for all.”

That there were 30 women who settled claims against the Texans compared with only 24 who sued Watson potentially indicates that more women who file suits against Watson in the future. The six additional women have not been identified and Buzbee declined to share any details about their claims. 

Buzbee including the Texans as a defendant in suits regarding Watson’s alleged misconduct came on the heels of a New York Times report that the Texans provided Watson with a membership to a hotel where some of the massages took place. A Texans employee allegedly provided Watson with a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that Watson later used for his appointments; and that multiple women who did not sue Watson or go to the police with their allegations made similar claims to those who did.

The Times also reported that Watson booked appointments with at least 66 massage therapists over a 17-month period from fall 2019 through spring 2021. That number is in contradiction with Watson’s public statements that he hired around 40 massage therapists during his five seasons with the Texans. Here’s what Buzbee said at the time.

“What has become clear is that the Houston Texans organization and their contradicting ‘massage therapy company’ facilitated Deshaun Watson’s conduct. In many of these cases, the Texans provided the opportunity for this conduct to occur. 

“We believe the Texans organization was well aware of Watson’s issues, but failed to act. They knew or certainly should have known. The Houston Texans organization provided rooms for Watson at the high-end Houstonian hotel for his ‘massages’ and also provided massage tables and other support for Watson’s proclivities — ostensibly to protect their ‘asset.'”

The Texans did not respond specifically to the allegations in the New York Times story, but afterward made statements that the organization was unaware of Watson’s actions until the first first lawsuit was filed in March 2021.

The NFL was “nearing the end of the investigative period” regarding these allegations late last month, but two more women being added to the lawsuit may delay a potential decision. With the lawsuit growing and one of the franchises involved, the league could pivot toward another decision in the days to come. 

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