Nike has suspended its endorsement of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson after 22 civil lawsuits have been filed against him alleging sexual harassment and assault.
The company issued a statement to CNBC’s Jabari Young saying, “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Watson signed with the company prior to the 2017 NFL draft.
A representative for Beats by Dre, another of Watson’s backers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC about their ties to Watson.
On Tuesday, two women identified themselves as plaintiffs in the sexual assault and harassment lawsuits against Watson, the first to reveal their names.
“I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman,” Solis said in a prepared statement at a press conference. “And I come forward now in the hopes that no other human being will assault another in the future.”
Solis, according to Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, was the first person to file a lawsuit against Watson. A second plaintiff, Lauren Baxley, was also identified, though, she was not present at the news conference. Instead an associate of Buzbee’s read a statement aloud on her behalf.
“Every boundary from professional and therapeutic to sexual and degrading you crossed or attempted to cross,” Baxley’s statement read. “You insisted that I not use my knuckles or forearms, but that I use my fingers for digital stimulation, which is an ethical violation of massage practice when working in the gluteal area.”
Buzbee said Tuesday that two women, including Solis, have gone to the Houston Police Department to make criminal complaints against Watson. Last Friday, the department released a statement saying a report concerning Watson had been filed and that police were investigating.
The nearly two dozen lawsuits filed in the last three weeks against Watson explicitly cite events dating as far back as March 30, 2020, and as recent as March 5, 2021.
Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have previously denied the allegations. Last week, Hardin’s office also published a press release with the accounts of what it says are 18 female massage therapists who “are voluntarily issuing statements in support of Deshaun—with their names attached.”
On Monday, Texans owner Cal McNair wrote in a letter to season ticket holders saying the team is taking the allegations of assault against Watson “very seriously.”
“As reported, HPD and the National Football League are conducting investigations and we will cooperate fully,” McNair wrote. “We respect the legal process and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
“… This is deeply personal to our family and remains a priority.”