Watson Facing Multiple Sexual Assault Allegations


Eric Christian Smith/AP

Deshaun Watson waves to fans while leaving Paul Brown Stadium

Jayun "Armstrong" Tang, Staff Writer

In March, a series of lawsuits were filed against Deshaun Watson. A total of 22 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment were filed. Deshaun Watson has been in the NFL for 4 years, playing as the quarterback for the Houston Texans. Before this, he played for Clemson, winning them a national championship in 2016. The allegations come from multiple massage therapists that Watson has seen during his career, filed by Tony Buzbee.

Tony Buzbee, known for large class action cases, filing the claims against Watson (Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle)

As of now, the case has yet to play out in court. However, either side has been releasing statements and documents surrounding the case to sway public opinion. In the early stages, on Watson’s side, many witnesses that were also massage therapists made statements defending them. Many of the statements were found to contain inaccurate information, including unlicensed massage therapists, misspelled names, and massage therapists with expired licenses, as per the Houston Chronicle. Misspelled names were found on the other side; all of these errors likely come from the rush to try and get their statements out.
On April 19th, Deshaun Watson’s attorney, Rusty Harden, filed a document tearing down the claims made by Buzbee. Harden claimed; Eight plaintiffs bragged about or were excited to massage Watson, five spoke to others about wanting to get money out of Watson, three lied about the number of sessions with Watson, seven continued to work with, or offered to work with Watson after the alleged incidents, five have completely scrubbed or deleted their social media accounts, and three lied about their trauma. These are hefty claims, and they have the potential to win the case for Watson. It will likely be some time before Buzbee responds to the claims.
Naturally, following the claims, Deshaun Watson has faced heavy backlash many users on social media distraught over the news, some believing he should be suspended from the NFL, others saying that he is innocent until proven guilty. Nike, however, did not feel the same, suspending their partnership immediately following the allegations. This means that the partnership will likely resume if Watson is proven innocent. Brands such as Beats by Dre and H-E-B ended their partnership entirely.
This case alone has the potential to affect the NFL and its players. In the past, people sharing their stories of sexual assault has inspired others to share their own. Could this same thing happen to the NFL? If the allegations are true, there could be more allegations against other players to come. Matt Said (12), a fan of Watson, shares, “I think this will impact the NFL in a good and bad way. This will lead to more criminals who are players getting caught. But, it could also attract more false allegations towards players.”
The NFL says they are monitoring the case and will be investigating. No word of suspension or termination has been said. Like the NFL, Texans general manager Nick Caserio says they will see the case through. Jeffery Felshaw (11) says, “[The NFL] should make it so that until the player is proven guilty, they won’t be suspended. This would protect players from allegations, as many player’s careers have been ruined due to false allegations.”
The NFL has had a history of letting some players off the hook with just a suspension after being proven guilty in some cases. A prime example being Michael Vick, who was suspended after pleading guilty for involvement in dogfighting. After Vick served his sentence, he signed with the Eagles. Sexual assault will likely be taken differently, especially considering the time we live in, after the Me Too movement, and more women speaking up about their stories. Ronit Sehgal (11), leader of the Sports Enthusiasts Club, agrees: “If the allegations are true then I see him doing no less than a suspension. Since there are 25 allegations, I see him never playing football again.” However, from where the case is now, the result is unpredictable. It has still yet to go through court, and Deshaun Watson could very well be playing in the 2021 season. Creating your own opinion is important in situations like these; respecting victim’s stories and not downplaying them immediately, but also remembering innocence until proven guilty is the best way to take a stance on the situation.