As this Deshaun Watson situation—in which the embattled NFL superstar has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior in over 20 lawsuits—continues to unfold, on Wednesday, the three-time Pro Bowler learned that a few of his most lucrative partnerships have officially been put on pause.
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop and CNBC report that in the immediate aftermath of a Tuesday press conference in which one of Watson’s accusers, Ashley Solis, addressed the disturbing allegations publicly for the first time, Nike and Beats by Dre have suspended their endorsement deals with the Houston Texans quarterback.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson,” Nike said in a statement to CNBC. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Thus far, 22 women have filed lawsuits against Watson over the past month, alleging that obscene gestures, forced oral sex and other illicit acts were committed against them during massage appointments that were arranged via Instagram.
“I got into massage therapy to heal people,” Solis said on Tuesday. “To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that. He took that away from me, he tainted a profession in which I take enormous pride. [...] I suffer from panic attacks, anxiety and depression. I’m in counseling as a result of Deshaun Watson’s actions. I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on me emotionally and physically. And I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on these other survivors.”
Previously, attorney Tony Buzbee expressed his reluctance to submit evidence of these claims to the Houston Police Department. But on Friday, Houston PD announced that it had opened a criminal investigation after a complaint was filed against Watson. The NFL has also launched an investigation of its own in order to determine if Watson has violated its personal conduct policy.
While Nike and Beats by Dre have distanced themselves from the 26-year-old quarterback, other companies such as Rolex and Reliant Energy, who each have brand partnerships with Watson, have remained mum on these allegations thus far. The Houston Texans, who Watson demanded a trade from in January, haven’t exactly thrown their support behind him either:
In a statement to The Root, Rusty Hardin, who represents Watson, accused Buzbee of seeking “$100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit.” Hardin also provided lengthy email correspondence between The Buzbee Law Firm and lawyer Scott Gaffield, who represents Watson, to substantiate his claims. The email exchanges took place between Feb. 3 and Feb. 19.
Gaffield also provided the following statement to The Root:
“My email exchanges with Mr. Buzbee and [Buzbee associate Cornelia] Brandfield-Harvey were very clear. We did not think that the facts showed that Deshaun did anything wrong with their client. We believed then—and fully believe now— that Deshaun learned a lesson about putting himself in this type of situation by interacting with people he does not know. As the emails show, we were willing to continue discussions on Deshaun’s behalf to explore ways to prevent a lawsuit and a public spectacle. But Mr. Buzbee informed us that he was unwilling to do so. We expect that this matter will be resolved in court.”
This situation gets more and more worrisome with each passing day, but we’ll keep you updated as this story continues to develop.