Twenty women who accused Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct during massage sessions have settled civil cases with the NFL star
Los Angeles (AFP) - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached settlements with 20 women who filed lawsuits against the NFL superstar alleging sexual misconduct during massage sessions, a lawyer for the women said Tuesday.
Attorney Tony Buzbee said in a statement that all but four of 24 civil cases filed against Watson had been settled. The terms of the settlements were not disclosed.
“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” Buzbee said in a statement.
“We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential.”
Buzbee said that Ashley Solis – the first woman to file a suit against Watson and to speak publicly about the case – is one of the four women who has not settled with the quarterback.
“Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other docket obligations and the court’s schedule,” he said.
Buzbee meanwhile praised Solis for her “courageous” decision to come forward with her allegations against Watson in the first instance.
“Without Ashley Solis, the conduct experienced by these women would likely have continued unfettered,” he said.
“The truth is, without her courage and willingness to come forward, the NFL wouldn’t currently be contemplating discipline; there would be no examination of how teams might knowingly or unknowingly enable certain behavior … and this important story wouldn’t have dominated the sports headlines for more than a year.”
The women suing Watson have accused the quarterback of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior during massages he paid for while he was a player with the Houston Texans.
Watson has steadfastly denied all wrongdoing, with his attorney saying last month that “what little sexual activity” was consensual.
While prosecutors in Texas have declined to press criminal charges over the allegations, Watson does still face punishment by the NFL as well as the outstanding civil cases against him.
The 26-year-old – one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL – missed the entirety of the 2021 season with the Texans following the allegations.
In March, Watson joined the Browns in a shock trade that will see him get paid $230 million in guaranteed salary, a move described by one critic as a “repugnant black eye for the NFL”.
Watson accuser Solis said the Browns decision to hire Watson on a lucrative contract felt like a “big screw you” to all of the quarterback’s accusers.
An NFL spokesman said that the settlements announced on Tuesday would have no bearing on the outcome of the league’s case against Watson.
“Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month that the league’s investigation into the Watson accusations was near completion.
US media have reported that the NFL wants Watson to be hit with a “significant” suspension of at least one full season.