CLEVELAND, OH – A disciplinary hearing regarding sexual misconduct allegedly committed by an NFL quarterback begins today.
The hearing concerning DeShaun Watson began on Jun. 28. Watson has been accused by 24 massage therapists of sexual misconduct during sessions.
The NFL and NFLPA appointed retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson to oversee the hearing and issue a decision should any discipline be imposed. According to CBS Sports, the NFL is seeking at least a 1-year suspension for Watson. NFL Insider Ian Rapaport said the league is pushing for an indefinite suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Regardless on the outcome, both Watson and the NFL can appeal the decision.
In March 2021, the first of 24 lawsuits was filed against Deshaun Watson. He sent Ashley Solis, the massage therapist, a direct message on Instagram in March 2020. Solis was marketing her business on social media.
During the massage session, Watson allegedly was not fully covered on the massage table with only his groin area covered by a small towel. He allegedly told Solis to only use her hands while performing the massage and wanted her to focus on his groin area.
Then, Watson allegedly exposed the tip of his male sexual organ and began moving his hips around causing his organ to touch Solis’ hands.
According to the New York Times, Watson reportedly used 66 different women over a 17-month period for massage appointments.
In March 2022, two grand juries declined to indict Watson criminally as there was not enough evidence of wrongdoing.
In early June 2022, Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin said during a radio interview with Sports Radio 610:
“I don’t know how many men are out there now that have had a massage that perhaps occasionally there was a happy ending. Maybe there’s nobody in your listening audience that that ever happened to. I do want to point out, if it has happened, it’s not a crime. Ok? Unless you are paying somebody extra or so to give you some type of sexual activity, it’s not a crime. Doing something or saying something or being a way that makes you uncomfortable is not a crime.”
Of the 24 cases against him, Watson settled 20 of them this month.
Also relating to the Watson case, Tony Buzbee, the attorney who represented the women who accused Watson, filed a lawsuit against the Houston Texans organization. Buzbee said, “Today we filed the first case of what will likely be many against the Houston Texans related to DeShaun Watson’s behavior. Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct. Beyond that, we believe the filing speaks for itself.”
In the filing, the Texans’ designated massage therapist entity, Genuine Touch’s owner Joni Honn, issued a complaint to the organization in June 2020 that Watson was seeking unqualified massage therapists on Instagram for sessions.
Buzbee also alleges that the Texans gave Watson non-disclosure agreements for therapists to sign, and the team paid for rooms at a hotel under an alias. In a deposition, Watson said that Brent Naccara, the Texans’ director of security, put the NDA in his locker.
Watson maintains his innocence saying he has never assaulted, disrespected, or harassed anyone.
Cleveland traded for Watson in March 2022 and gave the quarterback a monster $230 million contract that is guaranteed. They claim they did extensive research into the issues surrounding Watson and Brown’s head coach Kevin Stefanski declined to comment saying he would be respectful of the investigation.
A crime does not have to be committed in the NFL for a suspension to be issued. Current Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended 6 games after the lead investigator recommended no punishment after allegations of domestic violence.
NFL legend Tom Brady served a 4-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the league for his role in “Deflategate”. In a 45-7 blowout of the Indianapolis Colts, the league began an investigation into underinflated footballs.
For the upcoming season, Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended indefinitely for the entire year for betting on NFL games during the past season. Also issued this year, in the MLB, Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was suspended for 324 games, or two seasons, for domestic violence.