Every time I think about Deshaun Watson’s situation, I think about the numbers.
They are amazing. You tell the story.
A new number was added to the Watson story on Friday, and once again it’s disgusting. And at least two new questions are begging to be asked.
The number: thirty.
On Friday, attorney Tony Buzbee announced the Houston Texans had reached settlements with 30 women who had filed or were planning to file lawsuits against the team and claimed they ignored Watson’s behavior while he was employed there.
A woman officially filed a lawsuit against the Texans after a report by Jenny Vrentas of The New York Times in June showed that the franchise had provided the venue Watson used for at least some of his many massage appointments and that the security chief at the Teams had provided the quarterback with a non-disclosure agreement after a woman threatened to expose Watson’s allegedly dirty behavior.
According to Buzbee, she wouldn’t be the only one filing a lawsuit. Instead of taking the case to court, the Texans settled with 30 women.
In a statement attributed to Houston team owners Janice, Hannah and Cal McNair, the team said in part, “While our organization was unaware of Deshaun Watson’s alleged wrongdoing, we made a conscious decision to resolve this matter amicably. This is not an admission of any wrongdoing, but a clear stance against all forms of sexual assault and misconduct.”
Given that the Texans’ chief of security, former Secret Service agent Brent Naccara, was the person who reportedly transmitted the NDA to Watson, it’s hard to believe that the Texans’ top leadership had no idea what Watson was allegedly doing outside of the team’s facility .
Other numbers, in case you need a reminder: The Times found 66 women – 66! – over 17 months, who Watson contacted under cover to seek a massage, some of the women were not even licensed or trained to provide the service but he insisted they did; 24 women filed formal civil complaints against Watson alleging varying degrees of sexual harassment and/or misconduct; 20 women settled with the quarterback last month, four didn’t.
It’s worth repeating that professional athletes who need an actual therapeutic massage use one or two regularly, and these days many NFL teams offer them at the practice facility.
By the time the Cleveland Browns gave up three first-round draft picks to acquire Watson, he was facing 22 lawsuits. The Browns paid no heed and signed an unprecedented $230 million fully guaranteed contract which, to show what really matters, included a deflated base salary for 2022 to protect Watson financially should the league choose him in this one season suspended.
The new questions to ask: If the Texans face a civil lawsuit related to the Watson allegations and settle with 30 women, will the NFL sanction the organization? And if Watson hadn’t asked the Texans for a trade in January 2021, would the public know about it?
To the first question, the answer should be yes. Since it’s the NFL, don’t be optimistic that the right thing will be done. This, of course, is a group that appears to be completely ignorant of the behavior and allegations against Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, who has refused to appear before a congressional panel examining the gross mistreatment of women in team offices and others investigates potential problems within the franchise.
A possible punishment for the Texans: Losing the first-round draft pick in 2023, which Houston got from Cleveland in the course of the Watson trade. They might have come to terms with the 30 women relatively quickly, but that doesn’t mean we should all forget that the Texans played a role in enabling Watson’s alleged predatory behavior. They shouldn’t skate because they wrote a check.
As for the latter question, we will never know. But pro and collegiate teams have long done what they can to protect players from sticky situations, especially star players.
The NFL held their hearing with Watson, so now there’s at least one more number we’re waiting to find out: how many weeks he’ll be suspended.