Sixteen civil lawsuits have been filed against Deshaun Watson alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage appointments over the last year, including one earlier this month.
The allegations range from refusing to cover his genitals to forcing women to give him oral sex. The news of the first filing broke on the evening of March 16 after Houston attorney Tony Buzbee disclosed the news on social media, and details of the first lawsuit came out the following morning.
Here’s what we know about the lawsuits against the Texans’ quarterback.
What is Watson accused of?
The lawsuits say that Watson sexually harassed and assaulted a number of massage therapists. The specific accusations are wide-ranging, but include descriptions of him exposing himself without consent, forcing women into sexual acts and making veiled threats.
“Watson’s behavior is part of a disturbing pattern of preying on vulnerable women,” one of the lawsuits says.
One lawsuit, for instance, says that Watson “assaulted and harassed Plaintiff by exposing himself to her and touching her with his penis.” The massage therapist says the incident, which took place at a house in Los Angeles last July, occurred after Watson grabbed the her hands and guided them toward his genitals before forcing them onto his penis. He then, according to the lawsuit, attempted to “get her to pleasure him.”
Another lawsuit, stemming from incidents that took place last summer, alleges that during the massage sessions, “Watson assaulted and harassed the Plaintiff by grabbing Plaintiff’s buttocks and vagina, touching her with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.”
Eleven lawsuits allege that Watson exposed himself, while at least 12 filings assert that he touched women with his penis, either once or repeatedly. And four lawsuits allege that Watson forced himself on the alleged victims, either by kissing them or via oral sex.
His “aggressive” behavior, as the lawsuits put it, created a pattern sexual misconduct where some of the women felt they could not say no or stop him. Almost all cited a desire to protect their own business or the company where they worked.
One woman says in a filing that it was “apparent that Watson wanted the massage for only one reason—sex.”
One filing alleges that Watson told a licensed massage therapist that he makes “a lot of massage therapists uncomfortable and it’s really hard for me to find someone who will meet my needs.” In another case, Watson allegedly told a different licensed massage therapist, “I will not have you sign a NDA but don’t ever talk about this.”
According to a separate lawsuit, another woman felt threatened when he said, “I know you have a career and a reputation, and I know you would hate for someone to mess with yours, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”
When did the alleged incidents take place?
The lawsuits cite events dating back to March 30, 2020 and as recent as March 5, 2021, with sessions taking place in multiple states and venues.
Buzbee also revealed during a press conference on March 19 that a Texans trainer referred Watson to one of the women he is representing, and Watson’s personal quarterback coach connected him with another one of the women.
Here’s a timeline of each incident:
- March 30, 2020, at the plaintiff’s home in Texas.
- April 19, 2020, at a Houston spa.
- May 28, 2020, at Watson’s home in Houston.
- June 2, 2020, at a Houston spa.
- June 2020 and Aug. 17, 2020, at a hotel and later a spa in Houston.
- July 2020, at the plaintiff’s house in Houston.
- July 15, 2020, at a home in Beverly Hills, Calif.
- Aug. 2, 2020, at a hotel in Houston.
- Aug. 28, 2020, at The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.
- Multiple encounters between Sept. 9, 2020, and October 2020, at a Houston spa.
- Sept. 24, 2020, at a rented room in a Houston salon.
- Two sessions, Oct. 19 and around November 2, 2020, at the plaintiff’s office in Houston.
- Oct. 8, 2020, at a Houston spa.
- Dec. 28, 2020, at a Houston office building.
- Jan. 21, 2021, in Houston.
- March 5, 2021, at a massage therapy business in Sandy Springs, Ga.
Could there be additional filings or criminal charges?
Watson could be facing more civil lawsuits and potentially criminal charges.
Buzbee told Houston’s Fox26 on Monday that 24 women have come forward with allegations about Watson. As of Wednesday afternoon (March 24), 16 civil cases had been filed.
Last weekend, Buzbee posted a statement on Instagram saying his team would be “submitting affidavits and evidence from several women, who had experiences with Deshaun Watson, to the Houston Police Department and the Houston District Attorney” on Monday, March 22.
“We will request that a grand jury be empaneled to consider the evidence we provide,” Buzbee wrote.
However, Houston Police Department told ABC 13 Eyewitness News on Thursday that it had not yet received any documentation of evidence from Buzbee.
How has Watson responded?
Watson denied the accusations in a statement on Twitter on March 16, but has been silent since. David Mulugheta, Watson’s agent, echoed his client’s denial on Friday.
“Sexual assault is real. Victims should be heard, offenders prosecuted,” Mulugheta wrote. “Individuals fabricate stories in pursuit of financial gain often. Their victims should be heard, and those offenders also prosecuted. I simply hope we keep this same energy with the truth.”
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said on Tuesday that he believes “any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false.”
Hardin continued, saying in a statement that his law firm has “strong evidence” showing that at least one of the women involved in these lawsuits attempted to blackmail Watson. That now “calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.”
The incident allegedly occurred in January 2021, when a woman requested $30,000 in exchange for her “indefinite silence about what she stated was a consensual encounter.”
Hardin released a signed affidavit from the quarterback’s marketing manager, Bryan Burney. In that document, Burney states that he spoke with someone› he believes is the plaintiff in the third case filed by Buzbee.
How is the NFL handling the allegations?
Buzbee posted, deleted and then reposted a confidential letter from the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, Lisa Friel, that confirmed the league is investigating the sexual assault allegations against Watson.
An NFL spokesperson confirmed to Sports Illustrated on March 18 that “the matter is under review of [the league’s] personal conduct policy.”
The Texans released a statement Thursday, stating that they were informed of the league’s investigation and will “stay in close contact with the league as they do.”
What’s the deal with rumors linking Buzbee to the Texans?
Given that the quarterback and the franchise are at odds and the timing of these lawsuits, rumors started surfacing that there could be connection between Tony Buzbee and the Texans, specifically the McNair family, which owns the team.
Without being prompted, Buzbee said at a press conference on March 19 that while he does live near the family, he would not recognize them on the street.
“This case has nothing to do with the Texans, has nothing to do with free agency, the timing,” Buzbee said. “I don’t know anything about that silliness, and I frankly don’t care about it. [The] Texans are not a team that I follow. This case is instead about women, brave women. Brave women who are willing to step forward knowing that they will be criticized and ostracized.”
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