With striking new evidence revealed in the Deshaun Watson saga, what punishment could come from the NFL against Watson and the Houston Texans organization?
Warning: This article contains details about alleged sexual assault which may be emotionally upsetting or difficult to read.
Since Deshaun Watson was traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns over three months ago, the saga surrounding his name has only continued. Whether it be new cases, talk of suspension, or even potential involvement from the Texans, Watson and the allegations of sexual misconduct against him have continued to dominate NFL headlines. However, with news on Tuesday breaking that Watson has settled with all but four of the women, and with the NFL wrapping up its investigation, it appears that this situation is finally nearing a close.
The New York Times Bombshell
The legal battle involving superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson began in March of 2021, when a brave woman by the name of Ashley Solis, represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, came forward with an accusation of sexual assault against the former Texans QB. Solis gave a disturbing description of the way Watson allegedly coerced her into performing sexual acts during a private massage session. Naturally, Watson adamantly denied the accusation. However, by summer of 2021, Watson was facing 22 allegations of sexual assault from other masseuses who described similar misconduct.
Fast forward all the way to early June in 2022, and things actually appeared to be going well for Watson, at least professionally. As aforementioned, he had been traded from the Texans to the Browns and was handed the largest contract in NFL history with $230 million in guaranteed money. However, things took an unexpected turn when two new lawsuits, one of which Watson’s defense team never anticipated, were waged against the former Texans QB. Later that week, Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times dropped a “bombshell” report, alleging that Watson met with 66 total women in a span of just 17 months.
The report also alleged that the Houston Texans organization provided Watson with NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements) as well as a room at the Houstonian hotel for private massage sessions. Thus, many began to suspect that the Texans were covering up Watson’s disgusting behavior until he demanded to be traded. Buzbee certainly seemed to agree, as the Texans were named a defendant in the suit against Watson soon after.
Things only got worse for Watson when his attorney, Rusty Hardin, went on a local sports radio show in Houston and claimed that “happy endings” aren’t illegal in a massage session. This was just the latest example of the story from Watson’s team was constantly changing. Although Watson was finally able to settle most of the cases earlier this week, Hardin’s comments and the NYT report have forever cemented Watson as a criminal in the court of public opinion.
Banishment From The NFL
Just before the NYT report and several new cases came out against Watson, the NFL had concluded its investigation into the pro-bowl quarterback and was preparing to deliver adequate punishment, if any at all. However, the new cases have prompted the NFL to take another look into Watson, this time with far greater intensity. This is because it is now also being alleged that Watson never told the Browns or NFL investigators about any additional meetings with women outside of the initial 22, despite being asked.
The process in serving Watson a punishment is not so simple either. The NFL is actually pushing to suspend Watson from the league for 60 games, or nearly four seasons. In other words, complete banishment. However, the NFL Players Association is likely to argue for no suspension at all, given that two grand juries refused to indite Watson on any criminal charges. Both sides will make their case to a new, third party investigator who will then give a recommendation to Roger Goodell as to what the final punishment should actually end up being.
I'm told there've been recent attempts by the NFL, the NFLPA & Deshaun Watson's advisors to negotiate a discipline settlement. However talks involving a potential number of games missed "fell apart" not being on the same page. As of now, process moves forward, per league sources. — JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) June 23, 2022
At this point, I would like to say that in my view, it is absolutely sickening that the possibility exists for Watson to get away with everything he has done. And, not to mention, still come out of it all as the highest paid player in league history. It is a completely inappropriate representation of the NFL, its players, and its fans. More importantly, it is a huge slap in the face to women everywhere.
That being said, with Watson settling 20 of 24 cases it, at the least, means that each woman received an amount of compensation that they believe serves justice for the horrific experiences they each underwent. Without the cases looming over Watson, the PR issue for the NFL is also technically removed. Thus, whether it is truly fair or not, I believe the NFL may only have reason to suspend Watson for six to eight games.
Today's developments between Deshaun Watson and his accusers "has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process," per NFL spokesman @NFLprguy. — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 21, 2022
Trouble For The Texans?
Of course, what most Houston fans want to now is how this all relates back to the team. After all, Watson is not our problem anymore, right? Right! Despite being named in the lawsuit, there are several reasons why I think the Texans will come out of this investigation with no wrong doing.
Firstly, in regards to the NDAs, it is actually fairly common for a team to provide its players, especially star ones, with NDAs. These are not just used to cover up harmful situations, but more commonly used to protect a player’s basic right to privacy. While the Texans may have given Watson the NDAs specifically for massage sessions, it’s hard to conclude that the organization knew he would use them so maliciously.
The same concept applies to the hotel room Watson was granted. It is even more common for a team to include “perks”, such as private rooms for players as a part of their contract. Watson was likely given the room with the intent of using it for personal reasons, such as to provide his family and friends a place to stay while in town on game day. All the Texans did was give Watson a hotel room. What ended up happening in that room was to no one’s fault or knowledge but Watson’s.
Lastly, I have to address the foolish idea from Browns fans who think that the Deshaun Watson trade should be reversed. To quote Texans GM Nick Cesario himself:
Unless there is somebody that is going in there overnight in a mask and try to get on a computer and may have a cyber attack or something like that, I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done there Texans GM Nick Cesario on the possibility of the NFL reversing the Deshaun Watson trade via Sports Radio 610
At the end of the day the Texans handled the trade process fairly and responsibly. They allowed the Browns (and all other teams interested in making a trade) full access to Deshaun Watson and both sides of the investigation. It was up to Cleveland, not Houston, to conduct their due diligence on Watson. Instead, Tony Buzbee claims that not a single NFL team reached out to him to hear the side of the women.
Well, now that fact is coming back to bite the Browns in a big way. Maybe next time, Cleveland and the entire NFL will learn to not hand an alleged sexual predator almost a quarter of a billion dollars. As for the Texans, the fans are right, none of this is our problem anymore, and it’s officially on to an exciting future with Davis Mills at the helm.
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