Deshaun Watson, the quarterback who the Cleveland Browns gave the richest contract in NFL history in March, is set to meet with NFL executives this week, The Athletic reported today.
Details about the agenda aren’t clear but it’s unlikely Commissioner Roger Goodell and crew want to talk to Watson about anything else besides the 22 pending civil lawsuits in Texas filed by women who claim Watson sexually harassed or assaulted them during massage sessions while he was a member of the Houston Texans.
Texas authorities announced on March 11 that they concluded their criminal investigation of the allegations against Watson without filing charges. That cleared the way for the big trade to Cleveland, but not without the plaintiffs using his work relocation to their advantage.
Watson finally made his way back to Texas for depositions last week. But the open question about his status in the NFL remains whether and for how long he might be suspended. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and its personal conduct policy pretty much give Goodell the powers of judge, jury and executioner where player discipline is concerned, so the answer to the first question is almost certainly. How long is another issue. The closest the league has ever come to having a player with a situation like Watson’s is now-retired Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was accused of sexually assaulting two women in 2008 and 2010. Roethlisberger settled a lawsuit from the first accuser; the second incident was investigated but no criminal charges were filed.
For those two allegations, Goodell hit Roethlisberger with a six game suspension, which was later reduced to four games and served at the beginning of the 2010 season. Watson faces 20 more accusations than Roethlisberger and the details are as bad as it gets.
From The Athletic
Goodell said then that it’s not likely Watson would be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list now given that the pending cases are civil and not criminal.
The 22 active suits allege Watson forced two women to perform oral sex, ejaculated on four women and in front of two others, groped four women and kissed another woman unprompted upon arrival for a massage appointment. Eighteen of the 22 active suits accuse Watson of inappropriately touching women with his penis during massage therapy sessions.
It’s obvious but also worth noting that Watson is Black in a sport where many players and observers have often accused the league of dropping the hammer harder on Black players than whites.