In spring 2021, news broke that multiple women had filed lawsuits against National Football League (NFL) quarterback Deshaun Watson alleging that he had committed sexual assault and sexual misconduct. In the beginning, there were seven lawsuits. As more victims came forward, that number quickly rose. Recently, Watson settled twenty of the twenty-four sexual misconduct cases filed against him.
Deshaun Watson’s Sexual Abuse and Misconduct Claims
In March of 2021, massage therapist Ashley Solis filed the first lawsuit against then-Houston Texans player Deshaun Watson alleging that he was sexually inappropriate with her during a session. Soon after, twenty-three female massage therapists filed suits claiming that Watson engaged in sexually abusive and inappropriate acts towards them.
A month after the initial suits were filed, Watson lost endorsement deals with Nike and Reliant Energy. Both companies released statements indicating that they take allegations of this nature very seriously. Texas grocery chain HEB also announced that it did not intend to renew its endorsement contract with Watson. In addition, Beats by Dre declared that it had ended its relationship with the quarterback. At the time of these announcements, twenty-two women had raised claims against Watson, and he was under criminal investigation by Texas authorities. Ultimately, that number would climb to twenty-four. A suit was also filed against the Texans on the basis that the team’s leadership knew or should have known about Watson’s conduct.
In March of 2022, Watson was traded to the Cleveland Browns and signed a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract. However, the quarterback has not played since 2020. Watson sat out the 2021 season and requested to be traded before the allegations of sexual misconduct first surfaced in March 2021.
NFL Investigation into Watson’s Conduct
The NFL is currently investigating the claims against Watson, and a ruling from independent arbitrator Susan Robinson is expected before Watson’s team begins training camp on July 27, 2022. The league’s independent investigation is into whether Watson violated the NFL personal-conduct policy.
According to a recent report, the NFL is expected to argue that Watson should be suspended for at least one year and allowed to apply for reinstatement after the 2022 season. Watson’s attorneys, and those from the NFL Players Association, are anticipated to argue that Watson has never been accused of this conduct before, and that past NFL precedent does not support a suspension of such length. If either side appeals Robinson’s initial disciplinary decision, the appeal would be handled by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates. The subsequent ruling would then be final.
Watson previously denied any wrongdoing and maintained that sex with the women was consensual. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints filed by ten women.
Washington Commanders’ Owner’s Sexual Misconduct and Harassment
In related news, new information recently emerged regarding allegations against Washington Commanders’ owner Daniel Snyder. The details came to light during congressional hearings into the NFL’s investigation of the team’s alleged toxic workplace culture.
According to a letter sent to the Washington Post, the new information concerns a female employee who accused Snyder of requesting sex, touching her, and attempting to take off her clothing on one of the team’s private planes while returning from a trip in April 2009. According to a recent report, Snyder denied the allegations but agreed to pay the woman a $1.6 million settlement three months after the claim was made. The settlement stipulated that she not publicly disclose the allegations or file suit against him.
In late June 2022, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified before the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform as part of Congress’s investigation into the Washington Commanders’ workplace culture. Before the hearing, the committee released a 29-page document that alleged that Snyder conducted a “shadow investigation” that sought to discredit those former employees who made accusations of workplace sexual harassment. The memo also states that Snyder “hired private investigators to intimidate witnesses and used an overseas lawsuit as a pretext to obtain phone records and emails.” Snyder, who had previously declined to testify, is reportedly resisting the committee’s subpoena.
Goodell told the committee that the team’s culture has transformed due to the inquiry and that “Dan Snyder has been held accountable.” When Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. asked whether he would remove Snyder as owner, Goodell said, “I don’t have the authority to remove him.”
Contact an Experienced Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney
If you’ve been the victim of rape, sexual abuse, or other sexual violence, you want an experienced and compassionate sexual abuse injury attorney on your side. Bonina & Bonina, PC understand the importance of helping sexual violence survivors get the help they need for their trauma. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se Habla Español.