To say this hasn’t been a banner year for the NFL is a classic understatement. Make no mistake: it’s operating under a dark cloud. Eleven players have been arrested, six for alleged acts of violence. The league keeps embarrassing itself with ridiculous hiring mandates. Additionally, the Deshaun Watson scandal continues to fester.
Watson faces civil lawsuits by 22 separate women accusing him of sexual misconduct. He sat out the entire 2021 season with Houston. Two grand juries chose not to indict the talented quarterback, who was recently traded to Cleveland and given a $230- million, five-year contract. Cleveland citizens protested his arrival there.
Attorneys are now wrangling over pre-civil trial discovery issues, and the NFL is monitoring this public relations nightmare (as it focuses instead on race- and gender-related hiring). If it’s found Watson violated the league’ personal conduct policy, he can be suspended.
USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer has made public many new details on Watson’s alleged pattern of luring in women for ulterior motives. He wrote that Watson used the swanky hotel, The Houstonian, for much of his alleged massage sexual exploitations.
Watson had an account at The Houstonian, where two women say, in 2020, he exposed himself to them and touched them with his genitals during massage sessions. The hotel offered professional luxury massage spa services at the Solaya Spa & Salon by The Houstonian. He also invited women to his suite at the hotel.
Watson asked an unlicensed therapist to visit his suite at The Houstonian in July 2020. Her lawsuit says his behavior grew “progressively worse”, and he touched with his genitals and ejaculated in front of her.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey said in a hearing he is attempting to prove there was a pattern and a motive to Watson’s behavior. Which was to get sex -- not just a massage, “even if that desire wasn’t mutual.”
Two attorneys not affiliated with the ongoing trials, say it’s a mighty bad look for Watson.
Los Angeles attorney David Ring, who has represented sexual assault victims, called the quarterback’s behavior “highly suspicious conduct”, and said Watson doesn’t have a lot of legal moves to make:
“This evidence could be used to show that Watson’s plan was to lure a masseuse to the hotel under the guise of a massage, when his real intention was to engage in sexual activities.”
Kenneth Williams, professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, remarked, “The fact that he went to such lengths to obtain massages tends to bolster the credibility of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs probably want the jury to think that a star NFL quarterback wouldn't have to go to such lengths to obtain a massage unless the massages were a pretext for something else.”
Plaintiffs charged that Watson used his own home and sites in California, Georgia and Arizona for sexual misconduct. He also flew a woman from Atlanta to Houston for one of his “massages.”
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the women are lying, they’re out for money and his clients had some sexual encounters that were consensual.
Barring settlements, the case goes to trial in May.
Despite all the NFL’s bad public relations, the league will hold its annual draft Thursday through Saturday under the façade that everything is wonderful and it’s a great organization.