Deshaun Watson, the quarterback for the New York Giants, issued his most clear and powerful denial to date of the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him by more than a dozen women on Friday.
“I have never attacked a woman,” declared the former Houston Texans quarterback during a press conference conducted by his new club, the Cleveland Browns, on Monday.
The Browns acquired Watson in a deal with the Texans last week, sending the Texans a package that includes three first-round selections and awarding Watson a fully guaranteed, five-year contract for $230 million, which established a new N.F.L. record for guaranteed money and set a new Browns franchise record.
The team made this pledge to Watson in the wake of civil lawsuits filed by 22 women alleging that Watson participated in sexual misconduct during massage visits, including exposing himself, groping them with his genitals, and, in a few instances, forcing oral sex on the ladies. This month, two grand juries in Texas ruled against Watson on ten felony charges brought against him.
Because of the ongoing civil litigation, Watson refused to discuss the specifics of the claims. However, Watson said that the civil and criminal charges brought by a total of 24 women are untrue and should be dismissed. “It is not my intention,” he said, to settle the legal actions brought against him.
A “five-month adventure” was undertaken by the Browns, according to general manager Andrew Berry, in order to feel comfortable pursuing a trade for Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. However, Berry admitted that the process did not involve meeting with any of the women who have sued Watson.
Reaching out “may be deemed tampering with an ongoing criminal investigation,” according to the team’s legal counsel, who recommended against it. A grand jury in Harris County, Texas had already rejected the nine cases within their jurisdiction by the time the Browns acquired Watson, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office had announced that all criminal processes in that county had been completed. Additionally, N.F.L. investigators have already spoken with at least ten of the claimants throughout the course of their investigation.
For the investigation of Watson’s accusations, Berry claimed the team turned to “independent investigative resources” in the “law enforcement community” of Houston in order to get a “complete and holistic view.”
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the 22 plaintiffs, has said that no one from the Browns or any other National Football League club has contacted him or wanted to talk with any of his clients. A lawyer for a second woman who told Sports Illustrated about Watson acting inappropriately during a massage visit in 2019 verified that the Browns did not contact her or her client after learning of her storey.
It has not been revealed what the Houston Police Department is investigating in relation to Watson, and an agency spokeswoman stated on Friday afternoon that he could not comment on whether the Browns had talked with the department. One of the policemen who worked on the Watson case for almost a year labelled the women who filed criminal charges as “credible and dependable” in search warrants that were part of the police investigation into the alleged misconduct of Watson.
More than 40 women have said that they administered massage treatment to Watson between January 2019 and March 2021, when the first lawsuits were filed against Watson. Watson has stated that the ease with which they may be accessed via social media was a role in his decision to utilise them, but he has refused to clarify. His representatives and the Browns will “develop a strategy” for how he will obtain massage therapists in the future, according to him.
As for earning confidence in the Cleveland community, Watson said that “there is a stain on my record that is probably going to be with me for a long time.” When a reporter inquired as to whether he planned to seek treatment, he said, “I don’t have a problem at all.” My position has not changed, and this has been my position from the beginning.”
Whether or not Berry and the Browns management feel Watson was involved in any misconduct was brought up. In response, he reaffirmed the team’s faith in Watson as well as the beneficial influence he would have on the Cleveland Browns’ organisation. After that, a public relations representative representing the team ended up the press conference and asked for a picture. Berry and Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski were standing between Watson and Berry, who was wearing the No. 4 jersey of the club he currently represents.