As Brown’s quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to flounder in the court of public opinion, two of his attorneys filed a lengthy radio interview on the case Friday morning.
Rusty Hardin and Leah Graham appeared on Sports Radio 610 in Houston. They answered many questions about the 23 civil cases pending against Watson. Each of the lawsuits alleges sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
Hardin and Graham said many things worth considering and analyzing. Towards the end of the interview, Hardin had this to say about the possibility of Watson receiving massages from so many different therapists with the expectation, hope and/or desire that it take a sexual turn. In fact, Watson and his attorneys have admitted that consensual activity took place with three of the plaintiffs who have sued him.
“I don’t know how many men out there have had a massage now that maybe occasionally had a happy ending,” Hardin said. “Maybe there isn’t anyone in your audience that this has ever happened to. I would like to point out, if it happened, it is not a crime. OK? Unless you pay someone extra or something to give you some kind of sexual activity, it’s not a crime. . . . It is not a crime to do or say anything or behave in a way that makes you uncomfortable.”
But we are not talking about criminal behavior at this stage of the process. The question is whether there was a civil violation – something that is not a crime but constitutes conduct that would enable the plaintiff to obtain appropriate compensation.
An equally important question for Watson is whether his conduct violates the Personal Conduct Policy. If he’s been arranging massages in hopes of a “happy ending,” while bonding in a way that has made several massage therapists uncomfortable, it may amount to “conduct that poses a real threat to the safety and well-being of another person.” and/or “Conduct that undermines or threatens the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL personnel.”
Hardin, Graham and the rest of Watson’s legal team are paid to represent him. They do. They don’t get paid to say, ‘See, Deshaun likes getting massages from strangers and possibly letting them get sexual. Sometimes the masseur initiates it. Sometimes he has to make the first move. Sometimes the masseur may not be interested. Sometimes the masseur feels uncomfortable or offended.”
With 23 lawsuits pending against Watson, common sense would suggest that he did just that. Does anyone think these massages were therapeutic? He’s a professional athlete. He wants to find a person who will consistently give him the kind of massage that will allow him to get the best of his abilities, not a revolving door of people with different skillsets and experiences who may or may not improve his field performance — and who could possibly affect them with a wrong move.
He has every right to defend himself against these 23 cases and insist that he did nothing wrong before, during and after the trials. However, as Hardin speaks more about the situation, he comes perilously close to admitting that Watson did in fact have a habit of seeking and/or getting “happy endings.” Should it surprise anyone that the therapists who opposed these advances chose to do so as soon as they realized they had rights that could be enforced in court?
Hardin and Graham continue to try to blame attorney Tony Buzbee for essentially soliciting plaintiffs with claims against Watson. What if he did? Turn on the TV and try not to watch an ad for 20 minutes in which a lawyer or law firm is trying to solicit certain types of people with specific types of claims against specific defendants, from asbestos to talcum powder to weed eaters and Truck accidents Workplace accidents affect every type of civil claim that a person can make that makes money for their attorneys.
Ultimately, the 23 pending cases will be brought to trial and resolved by a jury if unresolved. Ultimately, the NFL will determine whether Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy. If Watson’s defense in Roger Goodell’s court is, ‘Did I get some happy endings? Secure. Was I trying to get more than that? You bet. But, hey, that’s not a crime,” Watson has little chance of avoiding a lengthy suspension.