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Eventful week leads to developments in Watson sexual assault lawsuits

Image courtesy of Keith Allison

Deshaun Watson playing for the Houston Texans against the then-named Washington Redskins on Nov. 18, 2018.

Three weeks after the first lawsuit was filed against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson for alleged sexual assault and misconduct, the total number of lawsuits sits at 22. Watson, a former Clemson quarterback, has seen allegations grow quickly over the past few weeks.

Out of the 22 total plaintiffs accusing Watson of sexual assault and misconduct, two came forward publicly on April 6. Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley identified themselves at a press conference organized by their attorney as being part of the suits against Watson.

“People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false,” said Solis. The attorney representing the women, Tony Buzbee, continued, “The case ain’t about money, and it’s certainly ain’t about seeking publicity or fame. I personally don’t need it. And these women don’t want it. This case is about female empowerment.”

On Friday, April 9, judges also ruled that 12 of the 22 women must publicly come forward and reveal their identities in order to proceed with the lawsuits. With a deadline of two business days before the lawsuits will need to be refiled or dismissed, more women may be publicly coming forward by Tuesday, April 13. Nine of the 12 women are ready to do so, according to Buzbee.

The plaintiffs behind the lawsuits are a collection of masseuses and massage therapists who say that during their sessions with Watson, he exposed himself on multiple occasions. In addition to the claims that Watson exposed himself, some of the plaintiffs have said that Watson touched them with his genitals without their consent. 

Regarding the accusations specifically, Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has said that there have been consensual encounters between Watson and some of the massage therapists. 

“I’m not about to accuse 22 women of ill motive, of lying or anything. All I know is we’re supposed to start out believing Deshaun did not do it,” said Hardin. “That presumption on social media is pretty much gone.”

On March 16, Watson released a statement on Twitter regarding the first publicly known allegation in the series against him, saying, “I recently became aware of a lawsuit that has apparently been filed against me. I have not yet seen the complaint, but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect.” Watson has not commented on social media since.

Apple’s Beats by Dre ended their endorsement contract with Watson as a result of the allegations, and Nike also ended their endorsement contract with Watson, according to a statement from the company to CNBC on April 7.

As for Watson’s college reputation, Dabo Swinney, Clemson Football Head Coach, praised Watson’s character from his time at Clemson. 

“Certainly, we were disappointed to see his name in the news and all that’s going on,” said Swinney on March 22. “As far as all the legal stuff and all that, that’ll all take its course and all that stuff. [I] certainly can’t speculate or comment on any of that stuff, but all I can tell you is I’ve known Deshaun since the ninth grade, and he’s been nothing but exemplary in every area I’ve known him in.”

These allegations come at a time when Watson is seeking to leave the Texans via trade. It has been widely reported that Watson is unhappy with his situation in Houston and wishes to move on to a different team, even if it means sitting out games for the Texans. 

The NFL is investigating the allegations against Watson, which could mean any potential trades for Watson will be off the table until the investigation is complete.

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