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Deshaun Watson: 11 Games, $5 Million, 24 Lawsuits of Sexual Misconduct

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Former Houston Texans and current Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has had a very lengthy and seemingly unending civil lawsuit. The lawsuits started almost a year and a half ago. It has remained the most prominent social issue in the NFL during that span drawing more attention than even Colin Kaepernick's taking a knee for racial injustice.

In March of 2021, Tony Buzbee filed seven lawsuits against Watson. Within a few days the number of lawsuits doubled as Buzbee would file an additional seven lawsuits. By the end of the month the lawsuits continued to pile and at the time totaled a whopping 21. The next month yet another case was filed. With such negative press Watson lost major endorsements from companies such as Nike and Beats by Dre. A judge ruled that the plaintiffs would need to identify themselves and refile their cases with their real names. At this point all but two women had remained anonymous. One woman opted not to identify herself and dropped the case. Yet another woman filed a lawsuit. The seriousness of the accusations continued to escalate. Ten women filed police complaints. Watson met with the FBI, underwent a police investigation and spent the entire 2021 NFL season inactive.

A year passed and in March of 2022 Deshaun Watson was cleared of criminal charges, a grand jury declined to indict him, and he was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns.

Spring of 2022, a couple more women came forward and filed lawsuits for sexual assault and sexual misconduct. On June 21st Watson settled 20 of the 24 active civil lawsuits against him. In July, after lawsuits were filed against the Houston Texans for negligence on the matters involving Watson, the Texans reached a settlement with 30 women making claims against Watson. This was following a New York Times article that alleged the Texans "enabled" Watson's behavior.

While no legal action was made against Watson through police and FBI investigations, the NFL conducts its own investigation and hands down its own punishments. After weeks of deliberation the NFL and NFL Player's Association came to the decision to suspend Deshaun Watson for six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The NFL immediately sought to appeal the decision seeking a longer suspension and fine. On August 18th the appeal raised the suspension from six games to an 11-game suspension. In addition to the suspension, Watson would be fined $5 million dollars and be forced to submit to mandatory counseling or risk further punishment by the NFL.

Throughout the entire process Deshaun Watson has maintained his innocence and denied all allegations. He admitted to sexual conduct with at least some of the women performing massages but stated that it was always consensual.

Tony Buzbee represented 30 women in the case against the Texans. The terms of the settlement and amounts paid remain undisclosed. Buzbee also represented two dozen women in the civil lawsuit against Watson. With so many women making accusations of inappropriate conduct it leaves the questions if some of the women are hoping for a pay day (the Cleveland Browns gave Watson a fully guaranteed contract worth $230 million making the $5 million fine seem fairly insignificant by comparison and the fact the Texans owner has a net worth of billions of dollars). Or perhaps it was the courage of the first women that came forward that motivated others to step forward as well. Could one man have done so much harm to so many women?

In addition to being a lawyer, Buzbee also has long had political aspirations. In 2002 he ran for a seat of the Texas State House as a Democrat but lost. He would serve as chair of the Galveston County Democratic Party and then later as one of Rick Perry's (a Republican) debate coaches while also supporting the candidate financially and with use of his private jet. Then in 2016 Buzbee would host a fundraiser for then presidential candidate Donald Trump. In 2019 Buzbee ran against Sylvester Turner for Mayor of Houston but would lose. This is the man that would represent all these women in sexual misconduct charges. What started off as seven cases turned into 24 cases against Watson and 30 cases against the Houston Texans.

The entire situation is a reminder that it is hard to maintain an innocent until proven guilty stance. Many are still outraged, even after the appeal, of how seemingly little punishment was handed down to Watson. Others may argue that neither the police nor the FBI charged him and he was never found guilty so any punishment by the NFL could seem unfair on someone who in the eyes of the law is still innocent. As it stands now, Deshaun Watson will make his NFL return on December 4th, when the Cleveland Browns play who other than the Houston Texans.

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