Before he travels to the Bahamas to work out with new teammates, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson met with NFL investigators on Tuesday to discuss his legal matters with lead investigator Lisa Friel, ESPN reported.
Friel conducts investigations for the NFL on matters related to the personal conduct policy and, when violations are found, helps mete out punishment. Watson can be fined or suspended if the NFL rules that he violated the league policy on personal conduct.
Two grand juries in Texas did not indict Watson, who still faces 22 civil lawsuits around allegations of sexual misconduct with women who claim they met the quarterback while providing professional massage services.
The Athletic reported the NFL has interviewed multiple women involved in the civil case.
Players who were not convicted of crimes have still faced fines and suspensions under the same policy, including retired Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In 2010, Roethlisberger was not indicted on sexual assault charges in Georgia, but the NFL investigated and determined he would be suspended six games without pay. A 20-year-old college student accused Roethlisberger of wrongdoing following an incident in a bar bathroom.
Upon appeal, Roethlisberger’s suspension was reduced to four games, but commissioner Roger Goodell made clear his actions warranted punishment.
“My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Roethlisberger. “That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”
Watson said at his introductory press conference with the Browns, who signed him to a $230 million contract, that the claims were unfounded.
But in a pre-trial deposition last week, Watson admitted at least one massage therapist left their session in tears and he sent her an apology, according to attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women.
Buzbee previously shared the message in question.
“Sorry about you feeling uncomfortable,” he wrote, according to the screenshot from plaintiff lawyers. “Never were the intentions. Lmk if you want to work in the future. My apologies.”
–Field Level Media